Outliers: The Story of Success

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Outliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell Outliers: The Story of Success Author: Malcolm Gladwell Category: Art of Living Other name: Diana C. Website: http://motsach.info Date: 28-October-2012 Page 1/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell INTRODUCTION The Roseto Mystery THESE PEOPLE WERE DYING OF OLD AGE. THAT'S IT.” out-li-er \-,l•(-9)r\ noun i: something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body 2: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample. Roseto Valfortore lies one hundred miles southeast of Rome in the Apennine foothills of the Italian province of Foggia. In the style of medieval villages, the town is organized around a large central square. Facing the square is the Palazzo Marchesale, the palace of the Saggese family, once the great landowner of those parts. An archway to one side leads to a church, the Madonna del CarmineOur Lady of Mount Carmine. Narrow stone steps run up the hillside, flanked by closely clustered two-story stone houses with red-tile roofs. For centuries, the paesani of Roseto worked in the marble quarries in the surrounding hills, or cultivated the fields in the terraced valley below, walking four and five miles down the mountain in the morning and then making the long journey back up the hill at night. Life was hard. The townsfolk were barely literate and desperately poor and without much hope for economic betterment until word reached Roseto at the end of the nineteenth century of the land of opportunity across the ocean. In January of 1882, a group of eleven Rosetansten men and one boyset sail for New York. They spent their first night in America sleeping on the floor of a tavern on Mulberry Street, in Manhattan's Little Italy. Then they ventured west, eventually finding jobs in a slate quarry ninety miles west of the city near the town of Bangor, Pennsylvania. The following year, fifteen Rosetans left Italy for America, and several members of that group ended up in Bangor as well, joining their compatriots in the slate quarry. Those immigrants, in turn, sent word back to Roseto about the promise of the New World, and soon one group of Rosetans after another packed their bags and headed for Pennsylvania, until the initial stream of immigrants became a flood. In 1894 alone, some twelve hundred Rosetans applied for passports to America, leaving entire streets of their old village abandoned. The Rosetans began buying land on a rocky hillside connected to Bangor by a steep, rutted wagon path. They built closely clustered two-story stone houses with slate roofs on narrow streets running up and down the hillside. They built a church and called it Our Lady of Mount Carmel and named the main street, on which it stood, Gari- baldi Avenue, after the great hero of Italian unification. In the beginning, they called their town New Italy. But they soon changed it to Roseto, which seemed only appropriate given that Page 2/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell almost all of them had come from the same village in Italy. In 1896, a dynamic young priest by the name of Father Pasquale de Nisco took over at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. De Nisco set up spiritual societies and organized festivals. He encouraged the townsfolk to clear the land and plant onions, beans, potatoes, melons, and fruit trees in the long backyards behind their houses. He gave out seeds and bulbs. The town came to life. The Rosetans began raising pigs in their backyards and growing grapes for homemade wine. Schools, a park, a convent, and a cemetery were built. Small shops and bakeries and restaurants and bars opened along Garibaldi Avenue. More than a dozen factories sprang up making blouses for the garment trade. Neighboring Bangor was largely Welsh and English, and the next town over was overwhelmingly German, which meantgiven the fractious relationships between the English and Germans and Italians in those yearsthat Roseto stayed strictly for Rosetans. If you had wandered up and down the streets of Roseto in Pennsylvania in the first few decades after 1900, you would have heard only Italian, and not just any Italian but the precise southern Foggian dialect spoken back in the Italian Roseto. Roseto, Pennsylvania, was its own tiny, selfsufficient worldall but unknown by the society around itand it might well have remained so but for a man named Stewart Wolf. Wolf was a physician. He studied digestion and the stomach and taught in the medical school at the University of Oklahoma. He spent his summers on a farm in Pennsylvania, not far from Roseto although that, of course, didn't mean much, since Roseto was so much in its own world that it was possible to live in the next town and never know much about it. “One of the times when we were up there for the summerthis would have been in the late nineteen fifties I was invited to give a talk at the local medical society,” Wolf said years later in an interview. “After the talk was over, one of the local doctors invited me to have a beer. And while we were having a drink, he said, 'You know, I've been practicing for seventeen years. I get patients from all over, and I rarely find anyone from Roseto under the age of sixty-five with heart disease.' ” Wolf was taken aback. This was the 1950s, years before the advent of cholesterol-lowering drugs and aggressive measures to prevent heart disease. Heart attacks were an epidemic in the United States. They were the leading cause of death in men under the age of sixty-five. It was impossible to be a doctor, common sense said, and not see heart disease. Wolf decided to investigate. He enlisted the support of some of his students and colleagues from Oklahoma. They gathered together the death certificates from residents of the town, going back as many years as they could. They analyzed physicians' records. They took medical histories and constructed family genealogies. “We got busy,” Wolf said. “W e decided to do a preliminary study. We started in nineteen sixty-one. The mayor said, 'All my sisters are going to help you/ He had four sisters. He said, 'You can have the town council room/ I said, 'Where are you going to have council meetings?' He said, 'Well, we'll postpone them for a while/ The ladies would bring us lunch. We had little booths where we could take blood, do EKGs. We were there for four weeks. Then I talked with the authorities. They gave us the school for the summer. We invited the entire population of Roseto to be tested.” The results were astonishing. In Roseto, virtually no one under fifty-five had died of a heart attack or showed any signs of heart disease. For men over sixty-five, the death rate from heart disease in Roseto was roughly half that of the United States as a whole. The death rate from all causes in Roseto, in fact, was 30 to 35 percent lower than expected. Page 3/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell Wolf brought in a friend of his, a sociologist from Oklahoma named John Bruhn, to help him. “I hired medical students and sociology grad students as interviewers, and in Roseto we went house to house and talked to every person aged twenty-one and over,” Bruhn remembers. This happened more than fifty years ago, but Bruhn still had a sense of amazement in his voice as he described what they found. “There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn't have anyone on welfare. Then we looked at peptic ulcers. They didn't have any of those either. These people were dying of old age. That's it.” Wolf's profession had a name for a place like Rosetoa place that lay outside everyday experience, where the normal rules did not apply. Roseto was an outlier. Wolf's first thought was that the Rosetans must have held on to some dietary practices from the Old World that left them healthier than other Americans. But he quickly real ized that wasn't true. The Rosetans were cooking with lard instead of with the much healthier olive oil they had used back in Italy. Pizza in Italy was a thin crust with salt, oil, and perhaps some tomatoes, anchovies, or onions. Pizza in Pennsylvania was bread dough plus sausage, pepperoni, salami, ham, and sometimes eggs. Sweets such as biscotti and taralli used to be reserved for Christmas and Easter; in Roseto they were eaten year-round. When Wolf had dieticians analyze the typical Rosetan's eating habits, they found that a whopping 41 percent of their calories came from fat. Nor was this a town where people got up at dawn to do yoga and run a brisk six miles. The Pennsylvanian Rosetans smoked heavily and many were struggling with obesity. If diet and exercise didn't explain the findings, then what about geneticsThe Rosetans were a close-knit group from the same region of Italy, and Wolf's next thought was to wonder whether they were of a particularly hardy stock that protected them from disease. So he tracked down relatives of the Rosetans who were living in other parts of the United States to see if they shared the same remarkable good health as their cousins in Pennsylvania. They didn't. He then looked at the region where the Rosetans lived. Was it possible that there was something about living in the foothills of eastern Pennsylvania that was good for their healthThe two closest towns to Roseto were Bangor, which was just down the hill, and Nazareth, a few miles away. These were both about the same size as Roseto, and both were populated with the same kind of hardworking European immigrants. Wolf combed through both towns' medical records. For men over sixty-five, the death rates from heart disease in Nazareth and Bangor were three times that of Roseto. A nother dead end. What Wolf began to realize was that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise or genes or location. It had to be Roseto itself. As Bruhn and Wolf walked around the town, they figured out why. They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged Page 4/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures. In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were /row, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills. “I remember going to Roseto for the first time, and you'd see three-generational family meals, all the bakeries, the people walking up and down the street, sitting on their porches talking to each other, the blouse mills where the women worked during the day, while the men worked in the slate quarries,” Bruhn said. “It was magical.” When Bruhn and Wolf first presented their findings to the medical community, you can imagine the kind of skepticism they faced. They went to conferences where their peers were presenting long rows of data arrayed in complex charts and referring to this kind of gene or that kind of physiological process, and they themselves were talking instead about the mysterious and magical benefits of people stopping to talk to one another on the street and of having three generations under one roof. Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we werethat is, our genes. It depended on the decisions we madeon what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community. Wolf and Bruhn had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way: they had to get them to realize that they wouldn't be able to understand why someone was healthy if all they did was think about an individual's personal choices or actions in isolation. They had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town their families came from. They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. In Outliers, I want to do for our understanding of success what Stewart Wolf did for our understanding of health. Page 5/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell CHAPTER ONE FOR UNTO EVERYONE THAT HATH SHALL BE GIVEN, AND HE SHALL HAVE ABUNDANCE, BUT FROM HIM THAT HATH NOT SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY EVEN THAT WHICH HE HATH.” MATTHEW 25:29 1. One warm, spring day in May of 2007,the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Vancouver Giants met for the Memorial Cup hockey championships in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Tigers and the Giants were the two finest teams in the Canadian Hockey League, which in turn is the finest junior hockey league in the world. These were the future stars of the sportseventeen-, eighteen-, and nineteenyear-olds who had been skating and shooting pucks since they were barely more than toddlers. The game was broadcast on Canadian national television. Up and down the streets of downtown Vancouver, Memorial Cup banners hung from the lampposts. The arena was packed. A long red carpet was rolled out on the ice, and the announcer introduced the game's dignitaries. First came the premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell. Then, amid tumultuous applause, out walked Gordie Howe, one of the legends of the game. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer boomed. “Mr. Hockey” For the next sixty minutes, the two teams played spirited, aggressive hockey. Vancouver scored first, early in the second period, on a rebound by Mario Bliznak. Late in the second period, it was Medicine Hat's turn, as the team's scoring leader, Darren Helm, fired a quick shot past Vancouver's goalie, Tyson Sexsmith. Vancouver answered in the third period, scoring the game's deciding goal, and then, when Medicine Hat pulled its goalie in desperation, Vancouver scored a third time. In the aftermath of the game, the players and their families and sports reporters from across the country crammed into the winning team's locker room. The air was filled with cigar smoke and the smell of champagne and sweat-soaked hockey gear. On the wall was a handpainted banner: “Embrace the Struggle.” In the center of the room the Giants' coach, Don Hay, stood mistyeyed. “I'm just so proud of these guys,” he said. “Just look around the locker room. There isn't one guy who didn't buy in wholeheartedly.” Canadian hockey is a meritocracy. Thousands of Canadian boys begin to play the sport at the “novice” level, before they are even in kindergarten. From that point on, there are leagues for every age class, and at each of those levels, the players are sifted and sorted and evaluated, with the most talented separated out and groomed for the next level. By the time players reach their midteens, the very best of the best have been channeled into an elite league known as Major Junior A , which is the top of the pyramid. And if your Major Junior A team plays for the Memorial Cup, that means you are at the very top of the top of the pyramid. Page 6/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell This is the way most sports pick their future stars. It's the way soccer is organized in Europe and South America, and it's the way Olympic athletes are chosen. For that matter, it is not all that different from the way the world of classical music picks its future virtuosos, or the way the world of ballet picks its future ballerinas, or the way our elite educational system picks its future scientists and intellectuals. You can't buy your way into Major Junior A hockey. It doesn't matter who your father or mother is, or who your grandfather was, or what business your family is in. Nor does it matter if you live in the most remote corner of the most northerly province in Canada. If you have ability, the vast network of hockey scouts and talent spotters will find you, and if you are willing to work to develop that ability, the system will reward you. Success in hockey is based on individual meritand both of those words are important. Players are judged on their own performance, not on anyone else's, and on the basis of their ability, not on some other arbitrary fact. Or are they? 2. This is a book about outliers, about men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. Over the course of the chapters ahead, I'm going to introduce you to one kind of outlier after another: to geniuses, business tycoons, rock stars, and software programmers. We're going to uncover the secrets of a remarkable lawyer, look at what separates the very best pilots from pilots who have crashed planes, and try to figure out why Asians are so good at math. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among usthe skilled, the talented, and the drivenI will argue that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success. What is the question we always ask about the successfulWe want to know what they're likewhat kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top. In the autobiographies published every year by the billionaire/entrepreneur/rock star/celebrity, the story line is always the same: our hero is born in modest circumstances and by virtue of his own grit and talent fights his way to greatness. In the Bible, Joseph is cast out by his brothers and sold into slavery and then rises to become the pharaoh's right-hand man on the strength of his own brilliance and insight. In the famous nineteenth-century novels of Horatio Alger, young boys born into poverty rise to riches through a combination of pluck and initiative. “I think overall it's a disadvantage,” Jeb Bush once said of what it meant for his business career that he was the son of an American president and the brother of an American president and the grandson of a wealthy Wall Street banker and US senator. When he ran for governor of Florida, he repeatedly referred to himself as a “self-made man,” and it is a measure of how deeply we associate success with the efforts of the individual that few batted an eye at that description. “Lift up your heads,” RobertWinthrop told the crowd many years ago at the unveiling of a statue of that great hero of American independence Benjamin Franklin, “and look at the image of a man who rose from nothing, who owed nothing to parentage or patronage, who enjoyed no advantages of early education which are not opena hundredfold opento yourselves, who performed the most menial services in the businesses in which his early life was employed, but Page 7/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell who lived to stand before Kings, and died to leave a name which the world will never forget.” In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don't work. People don't rise from nothing. W e do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't. Biologists often talk about the “ecology” of an organism: the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and the rabbits and lumberjacks they were lucky enough to avoidThis is not a book about tall trees. It's a book about forests and hockey is a good place to start because the explanation for who gets to the top of the hockey world is a lot more interesting and complicated than it looks. In fact, it's downright peculiar. 3. Do you see itDon't feel bad if you don't, because for many years in the hockey world no one did. It wasn't until the mid-1980s, in fact, that a Canadian psychologist named Roger Barnsley first drew attention to the phenomenon of relative age. Barnsley was at a Lethbridge Broncos hockey game in southern Alberta, a team that played in the same Major Junior A league as the Vancouver Giants and the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was there with his wife, Paula, and their two boys, and his wife was reading the program, when she ran across a roster list just like the one above that you just looked at. “Roger,” she said, “do you know when these young men were born?” Barnsley said yes. “They're all between sixteen and twenty, so they'd be born in the late sixties.” “No, no,” Paula went on. “What month.” “I thought she was crazy,” Barnsley remembers. “But I looked through it, and what she was saying just jumped out at me. For some reason, there were an incredible number of January, February, and March birth dates.” Barnsley went home that night and looked up the birth dates of as many professional hockey players as he could find. He saw the same pattern. Barnsley, his wife, and a colleague, A. H. Thompson, then gathered statistics on every player in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. The story was the same. More players were born in January than in any other month, and by an Page 8/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell overwhelming margin. The second most frequent birth monthFebruary. The third March. Barnsley found that there were nearly five and a half times as many Ontario Junior Hockey League players born in January as were born in November. He looked at the all-star teams of eleven-year-olds and thirteen-yearoldsthe young players selected for elite traveling squads. Same story. He looked at the composition of the National Hockey League. Same story. The more he looked, the more Barnsley came to believe that what he was seeing was not a chance occurrence but an iron law of Canadian hockey: in any elite group of hockey playersthe very best of the best40 percent of the players will have been born between January and March, 30 percent between April and June, 20 percent between July and September, and 10 percent between October and December. “In all my years in psychology, I have never run into an effect this large,” Barnsley says. “You don't even need to do any statistical analysis. You just look at it.” Look back at the Medicine Hat roster. Do you see it nowSeventeen out of the twenty-five players on the team were born in January, February, March, or April. Here is the play-by-play for the first two goals in the Memorial Cup final, only this time I've substituted the players' birthdays for their names. It no longer sounds like the championship of Canadian junior hockey. It now sounds like a strange sporting ritual for teenage boys born under the astrological signs Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. March 11 starts around one side of the Tigers' net, leaving the puck for his teammate January 4, who passes it to January 22, who flips it hack to March 12, who shoots point-blank at the Tigers' goalie, April 27. April 27 blocks the shot, but it's rebounded by Vancouver's March 6. He shoots Medicine Hat defensemen February 9 and February 14 dive to block the puck while January 10 looks on helplessly. March 6 scores Let's go to the second period now. Medicine Hat's turn. The Tigers' scoring leader, January 21, charges down the right side of the ice. He stops and circles, eluding the Vancouver defenseman February 15. January 21 then deftly passes the puck to his teammate December 20wow what's he doing out there fwho shrugs off the onrushing defender May 17 and slides a cross-crease pass back to January 21. He shoots Vancouver defenseman March 12 dives, trying to block the shot. Vancouver's goalie, March 19, lunges helplessly. January 21 scores He raises his hands in triumph. His teammate May 2jumps on his back with joy. 4. The explanation for this is quite simple. It has nothing to do with astrology, nor is there anything magical about the first three months of the year. It's simply that in Canada the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey is January i. A boy who turns ten on January 2, then, could be playing alongside someone who doesn't turn ten until the end of the yearand at that age, in preadolescence, a twelvemonth gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical maturity. This being Canada, the most hockey-crazed country on earth, coaches start to select players for Page 9/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell the traveling “rep” squadthe all-star teamsat the age of nine or ten, and of course they are more likely to view as talented the bigger and more coordinated players, who have had the benefit of critical extra months of maturity. And what happens when a player gets chosen for a rep squadHe gets better coaching, and his teammates are better, and he plays fifty or seventy-five games a season instead of twenty games a season like those left behind in the “house” league, and he practices twice as much as, or even three times more than, he would have otherwise. In the beginning, his advantage isn't so much that he is inherently better but only that he is a little older. But by the age of thirteen or fourteen, with the benefit of better coaching and all that extra practice under his belt, he really is better, so he's the one more likely to make it to the Major Junior A league, and from there into the big leagues.“” Barnsley argues that these kinds of skewed age distributions exist whenever three things happen: selection, streaming, and differentiated experience. If you make a decision about who is good and who is not good at an early age; if you separate the “talented” from the “untalented”; and if you provide the “talented” with a superior experience, then you're going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people born closest to the cutoff date. In the United States, football and basketball don't select, stream, and differentiate quite as dramatically. As The way Canadians select hockey players is a beautiful example of what the sociologist Robert Merton famously called a “selffulfilling prophecy”a situation where “a false definition, in the beginning...evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” Canadians start with a false definition of who the best nine and ten-year-old hockey players are. They're just picking the oldest every year. But the way they treat those “all-stars” ends up making their original false judgment look correct. As Merton puts it: “This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.” a result, a child can be a bit behind physically in those sports and still play as much as his or her more mature peers.“” But baseball does. The cutoff date for almost all nonschool baseball leagues in the United States is July 31, with the result that more major league players are born in August than in any other month. (The numbers are striking: in 2005, among Americans playing major league baseball 505 were born in August versus 313born in July.) European soccer, similarly, is organized like hockey and baseballand the birth-date distributions in that sport are heavily skewed as well. In England, the eligibility date is September 1, and in the football association's premier league at one point in the 1990s, there were 288 players born between September and November and only 136 players born between June and August. In international soccer, the cutoff date used to be August 1, and in one recent junior world championship tournament, 135 players were born in the three months after August 1, and just 22 were born in May, June, and July. Today the cutoff date for international junior soccer is January 1. T ake a look at the roster of the 2007 Czechoslovakian National Junior soccer team, which made the Junior World Cup finals. Here we go again: A physically immature basketball player in an American city can probably play as many hours Page 10/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell of basketball in a given year as a relatively older child because there are so many basketball courts and so many people willing to play. It's not like ice hockey, where you need a rink. Basketball is saved by its accessibility and ubiquity. At the national team tryouts, the Czech soccer coaches might as well have told everyone born after midsummer that they should pack their bags and go home. Hockey and soccer are just games, of course, involving a select few. But these exact same biases also show up in areas of much more consequence, like education. Parents with a child born at the end of the calendar year often think about holding their child back before the start of kindergarten: it's hard for a five-year-old to keep up with a child born many months earlier. But most parents, one suspects, think that whatever disadvantage a younger child faces in kindergarten eventually goes away. But it doesn't. It's just like hockey. The small initial advantage that the child born in the early part of the year has over the child born at the end of the year persists. It locks children into patterns of achievement and underachievement, encouragement and discouragement, that stretch on and on for years. Recently, two economists Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhueylooked at the relationship between scores on what is called the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS (math and science tests given every four years to children in many countries around the world), and month of birth. They found that among fourth graders, the oldest children scored somewhere between four and twelve percentile points better than the youngest children. That, as Dhuey explains, is a “huge effect.” It means that if you take two intellectually equivalent fourth graders with birthdays at opposite ends of the cutoff date, the older student could score in the eightieth percentile, while the younger one could score in the sixty-eighth percentile. That's the difference between qualifying for a gifted program and not. “It's just like sports,” Dhuey said. “W e do ability grouping early on in childhood. We have advanced reading groups and advanced math groups. So, early on, if we look at young kids, in kindergarten and first grade, the teachers are confusing maturity with ability. And they put the older kids in the advanced stream, where they learn better skills; and the next year, because they are in the higher groups, they do even better; and the next year, the same things happens, and they do even better again. The only country we don't see this going on is Denmark. They have a national policy where they have no ability grouping until the age of ten.” Denmark waits to make selection decisions until maturity differences by age have evened out. Dhuey and Bedard subsequently did the same analysis, only this time looking at college. What did they findAt four-year colleges in the United Statesthe highest stream of postsecondary educationstudents belonging to the relatively youngest group in their class are underrepresented by about 11.6 percent. That initial difference in maturity doesn't go away with time. It persists. And for thousands of students, that initial disadvantage is the difference between going to collegeand having a real shot at the middle classand not. “I mean, it's ridiculous,” Dhuey says. "It's outlandish that our arbitrary choice of cutoff dates is causing Even more social phenomena can be linked to relative age. Barnsley and two colleagues, for instance, once found that students who attempt suicide are also more likely to be born in the second half of the school year. Their explanation is that poorer school performance can lead to depression. The connection between relative age and sui cide, however, isn't nearly Page 11/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell as pronounced as the correlation between birth date and athletic success. these long-lasting effects, and no one seems to care about them." 5. Think for a moment about what the story of hockey and early birthdays says about success. It tells us that our notion that it is the best and the brightest who effortlessly rise to the top is much too simplistic. Yes, the hockey players who make it to the profes sional level are more talented than you or me. But they also got a big head start, an opportunity that they neither deserved nor earned. And that opportunity played acritical role in their success. The sociologist Robert Merton famously called this phenomenon the “Matthew Effect” after the New Testament verse in the Gospel of Matthew: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It's the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It's the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it's the biggest nineand ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a bit bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger stilland on and on until the hockey player is a genuine outlier. But he didn't start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better. The second implication of the hockey example is that the systems we set up to determine who gets ahead aren't particularly efficient. We think that starting all-star leagues and gifted programs as early as possible is the best way of ensuring that no talent slips through the cracks. But take a look again at that roster for the Czech Republic soccer team. There are no players born in July, October, November, or December, and only one each in August and September. Those born in the last half of the year have all been discouraged, or overlooked, or pushed out of the sport. The talent of essentially half of the Czech athletic population has been squandered. So what do you do if you're an athletic young Czech with the misfortune to have been born in the last part of the yearYou can't play soccer. The deck is stacked against you. So maybe you could play the other sport that Czechs are obsessed withhockey. But wait. (I think you know what's coming.) Here's the roster of the 2007 Czech junior hockey team that finished fifth at the world championships. Those born in the last quarter of the year might as well give up on hockey too. Do you see the consequences of the way we have chosen to think about successBecause we so profoundly personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung. We make rules that frustrate achievement. We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And, most of all, we become much too passive. We overlook just how large a role we all playand by “we” I mean societyin determining who makes it and who doesn't. Page 12/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell If we chose to, we could acknowledge that cutoff dates matter. We could set up two or even three hockey leagues, divided up by month of birth. Let the players develop on separate tracks and then pick all-star teams.If all the Czech and Canadian athletes born at the end of the year had a fair chance, then the Czech and the Canadian national teams suddenly would have twice as many athletes to choose from. Schools could do the same thing. Elementary and middle schools could put the January through A pril-born students in one class, the May through August in another class, and those born in September through December in the third class. They could let students learn with and compete against other students of the same maturity level. It would be a little bit more complicated administratively. But it wouldn't necessarily cost that much more money, and it would level the playing field for those whothrough no fault of their ownhave been dealt a big disadvantage by the educational system. We could easily take control of the machinery of achievement, in other wordsnot just in sports but, as we will see, in other more consequential areas as well. But we don't. And whyBecause we cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don't matter at all. 6. Before the Memorial Cup final, Gord Wasdenthe father of one of the Medicine Hat Tigersstood by the side of the ice, talking about his son Scott. He was wearing a Medicine Hat baseball cap and a black Medicine Hat T-shirt. “When he was four and five years old,” Wasden remembered, “his little brother was in a walker, and he would shove a hockey stick in his hand and they would play hockey on the floor in the kitchen, morning till night. Scott always had a passion for it. He played rep hockey throughout his minor-league hockey career. He always made the Triple A teams. As a first-year peewee or a firstyear bantam, he always played on the top rep team.” W asden was clearly nervous: his son was about to play in the biggest game of his life. “He's had to work very hard for whatever he's got. I'm very proud of him.” Those were the ingredients of success at the highest level: passion, talent, and hard work. But there was another element. When did Wasden first get the sense that his son was something special“You know, he was always a bigger kid for his age. He was strong, and he had a knack for scoring goals at an early age. And he was always kind of a standout for his age, a captain of his team ” Bigger kid for his ageO f course he was. Scott W asden was born on January 4, within three days of the absolute perfect birthday for an elite hockey player. He was one of the lucky ones. If the eligibility date for Canadian hockey were later in the year, he might have been watching the Memorial Cup championship from the stands instead of playing on the ice. Page 13/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell CHAPTER TWO The 10,000-Hour Rule “IN HAMBURG, WE HAD TO PLAY FOR EIGHT HOURS.” 1. The University of Michigan opened its new Computer Center in 1971, in a brand-new building on Beal Avenue in Ann Arbor, with beige-brick exterior walls and a dark-glass front. The university's enormous mainframe computers stood in the middle of a vast white room, looking, as one faculty member remembers, “like one of the last scenes in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey” Off to the side were dozens of keypunch machineswhat passed in those days for computer terminals. In 1971, this was state of the art. The University of Michigan had one of the most advanced computer science programs in the world, and over the course of the Computer Center's life, thousands of students passed through that white room, the most famous of whom was a gawky teenager named Bill Joy. Joy came to the University of Michigan the year the Computer Center opened. He was sixteen. He was tall and very thin, with a mop of unruly hair. Fie had been voted “Most Studious Student” by his graduating class at North Farmington High School, outside Detroit, which, as he puts it, meant that he was a “no-date nerd.” He had thought he might end up as biologist or a mathematician. But late in his freshman year, he stumbled across the Computer Centerand he was hooked. From that point on, the Computer Center was his life. He programmed whenever he could. Joy got a job with a computer science professor so he could program over the summer. In 1975, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. There, he buried himself even deeper in the world of computer software. During the oral exams for his PhD, he made up a particularly complicated algorithm on the fly that, as one of his many admirers has written, “so stunned his examiners that one of them later compared the experience to 'Jesus confounding his elders/ ” Working in collaboration with a small group of programmers,Joy took on the task ofrewriting UNIX, which was a software system developed by A T&T for mainframe computers. Joy's version was very good. It was so good, in fact, that it becameand remainsthe operating system on which literally millions of computers around the world run. “If you put your Mac in that funny mode where you can see the code,” Joy says, “I see things that I remember typing in twenty- five years ago.” And do you know who wrote much of the software that allows you to access the InternetBill Joy. After graduating from Berkeley, Joy cofounded the Silicon Valley firm Sun Microsystems, which was one of the most critical players in the computer revolution. There he rewrote another computer languageJavaand his legend grew still further. Among Silicon Valley insiders, Joy is spoken of with as much awe as someone like Bill Gates of Microsoft. He is sometimes called the Edison of the Internet. As the Yale computer scientist David Gelernter says, "Bill Joy is one of the most influential people in the modern history of computing/' Page 14/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell The story of Bill Joy's genius has been told many times, and the lesson is always the same. Here was a world that was the purest of meritocracies. Computer programming didn't operate as an old-boy network, where you got ahead because of money or connections. It was a wide-open field in which all participants were judged solely on their talent and their accomplishments. It was a world where the best men won, and Joy was clearly one of those best men. It would be easier to accept that version of events, however, if we hadn't just looked at hockey and soccer players. Theirs was supposed to be apure meritocracy as well. Only it wasn't. It was a story of how the outliers in a particular field reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage. Is it possible the same pattern of special opportunities operate in the real world as wellLet's go back over the story of Bill Joy and find out. 2. For almost a generation, psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talentThe obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some dothe innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play. Exhibit A in the talent argument is a study done in the early 1990s by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin's elite Academy of Music. With the help of the Academy's professors, they divided the school's violinists into three groups. In the first group were the stars, the students with the potential to become world-class soloists. In the second were those judged to be merely “good.” In the third were students who were unlikely to ever play professionally and who intended to be music teachers in the public school system. All of the violinists were then asked the same question: over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced? Everyone from all three groups started playing at roughly the same age, around five years old. In those first few years, everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week. But when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge. The students who would end up the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else: six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age twelve, sixteen hours a week by age fourteen, and up and up, until by the age of twenty they were practicingthat is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get betterwell over thirty hours a week. In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice. By contrast, the merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totaled just over four thousand hours. Ericsson and his colleagues then compared amateur pianists with professional pianists. The same pattern emerged. The amateurs never practiced more than about three hours a week over the course of their childhood, and by the age of twenty they had totaled two thousand hours of practice. The professionals, on the other hand, steadily increased their practice time every year, Page 15/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell until by the age of twenty they, like the violinists, had reached ten thousand hours. The striking thing about Ericsson's study is that he and his colleagues couldn't find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggestes that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder. The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours. “The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expertin anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. O f course, this doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true worldclass expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” This is true even of people we think of as prodigies. Mozart, for example, famously started writing music at six. But, writes the psychologist Michael Howe in his book Genius Explained, by the standards of mature composers, Mozart's early works are not outstanding. The earliest pieces were all probably written down by his father, and perhaps improved in the process. Many of Wolfgang's childhood compositions, such as the first seven of his concertos for piano and orchestra, are largely arrangements of works by other composers. Of those concertos that only contain music original to Mozart, the earliest that is now regarded as a masterwork (No. 9, K. 271) was not com- posed until he was twenty-one: by that time Mozart had already been composing concertos for ten years. The music critic Harold Schonberg goes further: Mozart, he argues, actually “developed late,” since he didn't produce his greatest work until he had been composing for more than twenty years. To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fischer got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him nine years.) And what's ten yearsWell, it's roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. Here is the explanation for what was so puzzling about the rosters of the Czech and Canadian national sports teams. There was practically no one on those teams born after September 1, which doesn't seem to make any sense. You'd think that there should be a fair number of Czech Page 16/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell hockey or soccer prodigies born late in the year who are so talented that they eventually make their way into the top tier as young adults, despite their birth dates. But to Ericsson and those who argue against the primacy of talent, that isn't surprising at all. That late-born prodigy doesn't get chosen for the all-star team as an eight-year-old because he's too small. So he doesn't get the extra practice. And without that extra practice, he has no chance at hitting ten thousand hours by the time the professional hockey teams start looking for players. And without ten thousand hours under his belt, there is no way he can ever master the skills necessary to play at the top level. Even Mozartthe greatest musical prodigy of all time couldn't hit his stride until he had his ten thousand hours in. Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good. The other interesting thing about that ten thousand hours, of course, is that ten thousand hours is an enormous amount of time. It's all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you're a young adult. You have to have parents who encourage and support you. You can't be poor, because if you have to hold down a part-time job on the side to help make ends meet, there won't be time left in the day to practice enough. In fact, most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special programlike a hockey all-star squador if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours. 3. So, back to Bill Joy. It's 1971. He's tall and gawky and sixteen years old. He's the math whiz, the kind of student that schools like M I T and Caltech and the University of Waterloo attract by the hundreds. “When Bill was a little kid, he wanted to know everything about everything way before he should've even known he wanted to know,” his father, William, says. “We answered him when we could. And when we couldn't, we would just give him a book.” When it came time to apply to college, Joy got a perfect score on the math portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. “It wasn't particularly hard,” he says matter-of-factly. “There was plenty of time to check it twice.” He has talent by the truckload. But that's not the only consideration. It never is. The key to his development is that he stumbled across that nondescript building on Beal A venue. In the early 1970s, when Joy was learning about programming, computers were the size of rooms. A single machine (which might have less power and memory than your microwave now has) could cost upwards of a million dollarsand that's in 1970s dollars. Computers were rare. If you found one, if was hard to get access to it; if you managed to get access, renting time on it cost a fortune. What's more, programming itself was extraordinarily tedious. This was the era when computer programs were created using cardboard punch cards. Each line of code was imprinted on the card using a keypunch machine. A complex program might include hundreds, if not thousands, of these cards in tall stacks. Once a program was ready, you walked over to whatever mainframe computer you had access to and gave the stack of cards to an operator. Since computers could handle only one task at a time, the operator made an appointment for your program, and depending on how many people were ahead of you in line, you might not get your cards back for a few hours or even a day. And if you made even a single erroreven a typographical errorin Page 17/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell your program, you had to take the cards back, track down the error, and begin the whole process again. Under those circumstances, it was exceedingly difficult for anyone to become a programming expert. Certainly becoming an expert by your early twenties was all but impossible. When you can “program” for only a few minutes out of every hour you spend in the computer room, how can you ever get in ten thousand hours of practice“Programming with cards,” one computer scientist from that era remembers, “did not teach you programming. It taught you patience and proofreading.” It wasn't until the mid-1960s that a solution to the programming problem emerged. Computers were finally powerful enough that they could handle more than one “appointment” at once. If the computer's operating system was rewritten, computer scientists realized, the machine's time could be shared; the computer could be trained to handle hundreds of tasks at the same time. That, in turn, meant that programmers didn't have to physically hand their stacks of computer cards to the operator anymore. Dozens of terminals could be built, all linked to the mainframe by a telephone line, and everyone could be workingonlineall at once. Here is how one history of the period describes the advent of time-sharing: This was not just a revolution. It was a revelation. Forget the operator, the card decks, the wait. With time-sharing, you could sit at your Teletype, bang in a couple of com mands, and get an answer then and there. Time-sharing was interactive: A program could ask for a response, wait for you to type it in, act on it while you waited, and show you the result, all in “real time.” This is where Michigan came in, because Michigan was one of the first universities in the world to switch over to time-sharing. By 1967, a prototype of the system was up and running. By the early 1970s, Michigan had enough computing power that a hundred people could be programming simultaneously in the Computer Center. “In the late sixties, early seventies, I don't think there was anyplace else that was exactly like Michigan,” Mike Alexander, one of the pioneers of Michigan's computing system, said. “Maybe MIT. Maybe Carnegie Mellon.Maybe Dartmouth. I don't think there were any others.” This was the opportunity that greeted Bill Joy when he arrived on the Ann Arbor campus in the fall of 1971. He hadn't chosen Michigan because of its computers. He had never done anything with computers in high school. He was interested in math and engineering. But when the programming bug hit him in his freshman year, he found himselfby the happiest of accidentsin one of the few places in the world where a seventeen-year-old could program all he wanted. “Do you know what the difference is between the computing cards and time-sharing?” Joy says. “It's the difference between playing chess by mail and speed chess.” Programming wasn't an exercise in frustration anymore. It was fun. “I lived in the north campus, and the Computer Center was in the north campus,” Joy went on. "How much time did I spend thereOh, a phenomenal amount of time. It was open twenty-four hours. I would stay there all night, and just walk home in the morning. In an average week in those years, I was spending more time in the Computer Center than on my classes. A ll of us down there had this recurring nightmare of forgetting to show up for class at all, of not even realizing we were enrolled. Page 18/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell “The challenge was that they gave all the students an account with a fixed amount of money, so your time would run out. When you signed on, you would put in how long you wanted to spend on the computer. They gave you, like, an hour of time. That's all you'd get. But someone figured out that if you put in 'time equals' and then a letter, like t equals k, they wouldn't charge you,“ he said, laughing at the memory. ”It was a bug in the soft ware. You could put in t equals k and sit there forever.” Just look at the stream of opportunities that came Bill Joy's way. Because he happened to go to a farsighted school like the University of Michigan, he was able to practice on a time-sharing system instead of with punch cards; because the Michigan system happened to have a bug in it, he could program all he wanted; because the university was willing to spend the money to keep the Computer Center open twenty-four hours, he could stay up all night; and because he was able to put in so many hours, by the time he happened to be presented with the opportunity to rewrite UNIX, he was up to the task. Bill Joy was brilliant. He wanted to learn. That was a big part of it. But before he could become an expert, someone had to give him the opportunity to learn how to be an expert. “At Michigan, I was probably programming eight or ten hours a day,” he went on. “By the time I was at Berkeley I was doing it day and night. I had a terminal at home. I'd stay up until two or three o'clock in the morning, watching old movies and programming. Sometimes I'd fall asleep at the keyboard”he mimed his head falling on the keyboard“and you know how the key repeats until the end, and it starts to go beep, beep, beepAfter that happens three times, you have to go to bed. I was still relatively incompetent even when I got to Berkeley. I was proficient by my second year there. That's when I wrote programs that are still in use today, thirty years later.“ He paused for a moment to do the math in his headwhich for someone like Bill Joy doesn't take very long. Michigan in 1971. Programming in earnest by sophomore year. Add in the summers, then the days and nights in his first year at Berkeley. ”So, so maybe... ten thousand hours?“ he said, finally. ”That's about right.” 4. Is the ten-thousand-hour rule a general rule of successIf we scratch below the surface of every great achiever, do we always find the equivalent of the Michigan Computer Center or the hockey all-star teamsome sort of special opportunity for practice? Let's test the idea with two examples, and for the sake of simplicity, let's make them as familiar as possible: the Beatles, one of the most famous rock bands ever; and Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men. The BeatlesJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starrcame to the United States in February of 1964, starting the so-called British Invasion of the American music scene and putting out a string of hit records that transformed the face of popular music. The first interesting thing about the Beatles for our purposes is how long they had already been together by the time they reached the United States. Lennon and McCartney first started playing together in 1957, seven years prior to landing in America. (Incidentally, the time that elapsed between their founding and their arguably greatest artistic achievementsSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles White Albumis ten years.) And if you look even Page 19/126 http://motsach.infoOutliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell more closely at those long years of preparation, you'll find an experience that, in the context of hockey players and Bill Joy and world-class violinists, sounds awfully familiar. In i960, while they were still just a struggling high school rock band, they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany. “Hamburg in those days did not have rock-and-roll music clubs. It had strip clubs,” says Philip Norman, who wrote the Beatles biography Shout "There was one particular club owner called Bruno, who was originally a fairground showman. He had the idea of bringing in rock groups to play in various clubs. They had this formula. It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the time to catch the passing traffic. In an American redlight district, they would call it nonstop striptease. “Many of the bands that played in Hamburg were from Liverpool,” Norman went on. “It was an accident. Bruno went to London to look for bands. But he happened to meet an entrepreneur from Liverpool in Soho who was down in London by pure chance. And he arranged to send some bands over. That's how the connection was established. And eventually the Beatles made a connection not just with Bruno but with other club owners as well. They kept going back because they got a lot of alcohol and a lot of sex.” And what was so special about HamburgIt wasn't that it paid well. It didn't. Or that the acoustics were fantastic. They weren't. Or that the audiences were savvy and appreciative. They were anything but. It was the sheer amount of time the band was forced to play. Here is John Lennon, in an interview after the Beatles disbanded, talking about the band's performances at a Hamburg strip club called the Indra: We got better and got more confidence. We couldn't help it with all the experience playing all night long. It was handy them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over. In Liverpool, we'd only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing. Eight hours? Here is Pete Best, the Beatles' drummer at the time: “Once the news got out about that we were making a show, the club started packing them in. W e played seven nights a week. At first we played almost nonstop till twelve-thirty, when it closed, but as we got better the crowds stayed till two most mornings.” Seven days a week? The Beatles ended up traveling to Hamburg five times between i960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, five or more hours a night. On their second trip, they played 92 times. On their third trip, they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg gigs, in November and December of 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve Page 20/126 http://motsach.info