Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, there’s so much I like, that seems sound, that seems to redress inbalances in our understanding of success and intelligence. For instance the popular perception that high performers are born not made, ideas about giftedness, genius, and so on.

1. Gladwell makes the point that it takes hard work to achieve. The “10,000 hour rule”. wikipedia:

A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples. The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, “so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'” Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

2. Parenting is critical. In the discussion of why Lewis Terman’s group of gifted children did not do as well as they might and why Chris Langham with such a high IQ has not made it in formal higher education he looks at sociologist Annette Lareau‘s idea of concerted cultivation, the sort of intensive parenting that helps children succeed.

3. The luck of being in the right time at the right place is an important factor all throughout the book, from the sports successes with their birthdates to the birth year of the jewish New York lawyers.



Daydreaming womanPeople spend ‘half their waking hours daydreaming’

People spend nearly half of their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually doing, according to a US study conducted via the iPhone.

More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times of day and night.

The Science study suggested minds wander, even from demanding tasks, at least 30% of the time.

Read more on BBC news…

Perhaps why the Rational emotive behavior therapy / CBT model is so necessary:

A  Activitating Event

B  Beliefs*

C  Consequences – how you feel & behave when you have these beliefs

Disputing irrational beliefs

E  Effects


*(1) demandingness; (2) catastrophizing; (3) low frustration tolerance; and (4) global evaluation and low self-esteem or low-other esteem.

Telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen:

Derek Sivers mentions…

Peter Gollwitzer, 1982 – wrote “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf), 2009 new tests.

I want everyone to know, I intend to find out all about this.



Talking about “the last mile”, Sendhil Mullainathan, looks at how some of mental models stop us thinking rationally.

…some are uniquier than others.

Dan Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness:

Priests vow to remain celibate, physicians vow to do no harm, and letter carriers vow to swiftly complete their appointed rounds despite snow, sleet, and split infinitives. Few people realize that psychologists also take a vow, promising that at some point in their professional lives they will publish a book, a chapter, or at least an article that contains this sentence: “The human being is the only animal that . . .” We are allowed to finish the sentence any way we like, but it has to start with those eight words. Most of us wait until relatively late in our careers to fulfill this solemn obligation because we know that successive generations of psychologists will ignore all the other words that we managed to pack into a lifetime of well-intentioned scholarship and remember us mainly for how we finished The Sentence. We also know that the worse we do, the better we will be remembered. For instance, those psychologists who finished The Sentence with “can use language” were particularly well remembered when chimpanzees were taught to communicate with hand signs. And when researchers discovered that chimps in the wild use sticks to extract tasty termites from their mounds (and to bash one another over the head now and then), the world suddenly remembered the full name and mailing address of every psychologist who had ever finished The Sentence with “uses tools.” So it is for good reason that most psychologists put off completing The Sentence for as long as they can, hoping that if they wait long enough, they just might die in time to avoid being publicly humiliated by a monkey.

I have never before written The Sentence, but I’d like to do so now…

On this subject, watch Robert Sapolsky giving an excellent summary of how we are like and how we are different from other primates:

(spool it forward to 05:07 to hear Robert Sapolsky or watch on TED:


candle problem

Dan Pink talked to TED about motivation. He focused on the candle problem, and on modifications of it done by Sam Glucksberg which looked at how reward affected performance.

The results: with problems like this, extrinsic reward makes you slower.

Pink rightly draws the conclusion: intrinsic motivation is what we need for a lot of things.

He elaborates on this approach built round intrinsic motivation. Instead of incentives, this means:



autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives
mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters
purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Watch it:

Pink focuses on implications for business, but to me there are equally important implications for learning that are worth exploring.

§ § §

How much do goals interfere, in the same way that incentives can?

“zemblanitous education”:

“making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design” is a pretty good description of what happens in formal education, when “learning outcomes” are specified in advance.

At least, after listening to Pink, where candle-problem type thinking is needed.

§ § §

Demming knew about this already . See among his 14 points:

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the  bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
11. a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
12. a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia,” abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective


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