Out of The Ordinary

I like to mix the delicious with the serious and thought provoking. I am told that people get hungry after reading the weekend recap on Monday morning so in an effort to do my fair share in helping maintain my readers’ svelte figures, I am using this post to continue the discussion about successful people, their achievements and how they became successful.

Reading is not something I enjoyed as a child. My mom used to think that I would never be able to hold a lengthy conversation with anyone who is educated due to my lack of desire to read. I got into my reading stride when I was about ten and have since tried to make up for lost time. That was, of course, until Sophia came along and I must now weigh the importance of reading against the importance of sleep. Anyway, after having read my posts about Bragging Rights and Lucky Successes, a few readers suggested that I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: The Story of Success”. I am glad I took their advice and enjoyed the book so much that I couldn’t put it down.

I don’t want to spoil the read for you should you decide to read it yourself, but I do agree with most of Gladwell’s theses about some portion of everyone’s success is the result of a fortunate circumstance. It seems that most successful people were presented with opportunities. However, what makes these people successful is their determination to seize these chances and opportunities and to work exceptionally hard. Gladwell brings forward examples of people he calls “the outliers” from all types of professions ranging from famous musicians to famous computer scientists. He postures that your likelihood of becoming an outlier — an incredibly successful person has everything to do with who you are, where you are, what family you are born into and how hard you work. He agrees with a well-known theory that in order to really master something, one needs to work at it, to practice his craft for 10,000 hours. What is 10,000 hours, really? That’s about 5 year’s of practice at 40 hours per week.

Gladwell postures that determination and hard work and not aptitude have more to do with your likelihood at becoming a master. This made me remember a conversation I had with Evan a few years back. Sometime in 2008 or 2009, we got an invitation to attend Joanna Frankel‘s violin recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Joanna was a classmate of Evan’s and we thought it would be nice to show our support for her by attending. Besides, I don’t need too many reasons to make a trip to the Big Apple. We made a weekend of it and saw a Broadway play then, too. Evan also plays a violin and he is actually quite good — for someone who no longer practices. He practiced since a very young age and all the way through high school.

Joanna’s performance was excellent — she’s truly a virtuoso. I remember asking Evan if she was gifted or practiced a lot. He said that he believed she had great aptitude but thinks that she probably has been practicing 6-8 hours a day, every day for years and years and years whereas he would practice 2-3 hours a day. Basic arithmetic will tell you that 6-8 hours a day for a few years will quickly add up to that magic 10,000 hour rule. While Joanna was practicing the violin, Evan was practicing programming and is a virtuoso whose instrument is the computer.

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to pursue, just pursue it with passion, with determination and you will achieve greatness. To all those people who start something only to quit it a few short months later … nothing will ever come of it. There is never constant joy in anything we do, but when things get difficult, it is best to push on. Those who do, are rewarded with successes.

In the end, no matter how lucky your breaks were, it is your own hard work that rewards you with the fruits of your successes. If you’re someone who has been a lucky recipient of opportunities, pay back by creating opportunities for others along the way. There is nothing better than giving back. The ultimate sign of gratitude.

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