Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. […] They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Malcolm Gladwell
Last week my blog considered personal success from the perspective of living a ‘good life’ or a ‘goods life.’ Once we choose such things as truth, beauty and goodness over materialism, then what?
Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success assures us “extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity.” Gladwell provides numerous examples to support his claim that those who achieve “world class” success are given special opportunities that lead to further success. In other words, by most definitions they were already successful because their cultural circumstances of history and community gave them an accumulative advantage. Simply put, if your parents are white-collar professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.), then you, if you have the desire and work ethic, can expect to achieve the same or even more in your lifetime.
Nothing new here, so far. In the 1960s and 70s, feminists voiced a similar inequity when comparing the opportunities availed men and women in the workplace. The common analogy used to illustrate this socially inequitable circumstance was — if a man and woman were to compete in a car race, the accumulated advantage for the man would be equal to driving a powerful ‘muscle’ car (a Corvette) while the woman would be in a VW Beetle. It was not a similar or fair playing field. Men of that era were entitled and were gifted with many more advantages than women. The very same can be said for Caucasians versus other ethnic groups, which accounts for the 2002 top 10 billionaires listed below who are for the most part all men and almost entirely Caucasian Americans.
2002 Top 10 Billionaires
A decade later and we see other regions and ethnic groups emerging, likely due to technology beginning to level the playing field. Nonetheless, women still remain noticeably absent.
2012 Top 10 Billionaires
So what hope do the remaining 99% have for achieving “world-class expertise” regardless of whether we choose a good or a goods life?
Gladwell maintains to achieve such world-class expertise, the formula equates to a combination of talent and preparation. In the case of talent, one does not need to be a genius, only smart enough. Why? Because our social intelligence (SQ), which is learned knowledge, outweighs our intellect (IQ). In the case of preparation, one needs to put in the effort (practice), which he claims requires 10,000 hours or approximately 20 hrs/week for 10 years.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls
and looks like work. Thomas Edison
My question to you, are you doing meaningful work?
Are you choosing to do work that fulfills you?
Does it provide you with autonomy, complexity, creativity and a connection between your effort and your reward?