To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fisher got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him nine years.) And what's ten years? Well, 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.
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I always resist seeing my own personal motivation in my work, but I guess it must be there on some level. And I do feel very much that my life follows the kinds of things I talk about in my books. I've always thought of myself as an insanely lucky person, so perhaps the success of my first two books led me to want to examine this phenomenon on some unconscious level.
There is this tremendous body of knowledge in the world of academia where extraordinary numbers of incredibly thoughtful people have taken the time to examine on a really profound level the way we live our lives and who we are and where we've been. That brilliant learning sometimes gets trapped in academia and never sees the light of day.
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Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky - but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.
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Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were-that is, our genes. It depended on the decisions we made-on 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.
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People are in one of two states in a relationship," Gottman went on. "The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability. It's like a buffer. Their spouse will do something bad, and they'll say, 'Oh, he's just in a crummy mood.' Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative.
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If we think about emotion this way - as outside-in, not inside out - it is possible to understand how some people can have an enormous amount of influence over others. Some of us, after all, are very good at expressiing emotions and feelings, which means that we are far more emotionally contagious than the rest of us.
The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Crime didn't keep soaring in the 1990s, money alone doesn't win elections, and - surprise - drinking eight glasses of water a day has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health. Conventional wisdom is often shoddily formed and devilishly difficult to see through, but it can be done.
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When I see someone who reads something of mine and draws something out of it that's very different from my perspective, I think that's actually cool. Sometimes it's worrisome when you feel they badly misinterpret it, but it just says that they're thinking, and they're bringing their own interpretation to bear on it. That's part of the wonderful thing about putting words into the world, and if I was worried about that, I couldn't be a writer.
Jenny Simpson loses her shoe in the women's fifteen hundred, with a lap and a half to go, destroying her chances to repeat as world champion, and she gives the most gracious interview afterward about how she's had a wonderful career already. Great for Jenny Simpson. Bad for the sport! We need drama!
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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.
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The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.
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The mistake we make in thinking of character as something unified and all-encompassing is very similar to a kind of blind spot in the way we process information. Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context.
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People are in one of two states in a relationship, ' Gottman went on. 'The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability. It's like a buffer. Their spouse will do something bad, and they'll say, 'Oh, he's just in a crummy mood.' Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative.
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Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.
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Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice-perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again-and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court... spontaneity isn't random.
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legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice-that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can't treat one group differently from another.
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Do we as a society need people who have emerged from some kind of trauma. And the answer is that we plainly do. There are times and places however when all of us depend on people who have been hardened by their experiences... [Dr. Freireich] understood from his own childhood experiences that it is possible to emerge from even the darkest hell healed and restored.
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Some people look like they sound better than they actually sound, because they look confident and have good posture, " once musician, a veteran of many auditions, says. "Other people look awful when they play but sound great. Other people have that belabored look when they play, but you can't hear it in the sound. There is always this dissonance between what you see and hear" (p.251).
We have become obsessed with what is good about small classrooms and oblivious about what also can be good about large classes. It's a strange thing isn't it, to have an educational philosophy that thinks of the other students in the classroom with your child as competitors for the attention of the teacher and not allies in the adventure of learning.
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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.
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 talent? The obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some do - the 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 role preparation seems to play.
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So why don't Americans cheat? Because they think that their system is legitimate. People accept authority when they see that it treats everyone equally, when it is possible to speak up and be heard, and when there are rules in place that assure you that tomorrow you won't be treated radically different from how you are treated today. Legitimacy is based on fairness, voice and predictability, and the U.S. government, as much as Americans like to grumble about it, does a pretty good job of meeting all three standards. Pg. 293
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The entire principle of a blind taste test was ridiculous. They shouldn't have cared so much that they were losing blind taste tests with old Coke, and we shouldn't at all be surprised that Pepsi's dominance in blind taste tests never translated to much in the real world. Why not? Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind.
Economists often talk about the 80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the 'work' will be done by 20 percent of the participants. In most societies, 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes. Twenty percent of motorists cause 80 percent of all accidents. Twenty percent of beer drinkers drink 80 percent of all beer. When it comes to epidemics, though, this disproportionality becomes even more extreme: a tiny percentage of people do the majority of the work.
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[Research] suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act - and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment - are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize.
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 achievements 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.
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I write my books to challenge my own feelings and theories. Perhaps most surprising was what I learned about rice farming. It was really interesting to think of how different Asian and Western cultures are as a result of the kinds of agricultural practices that our ancestors used for thousands of years. The life of a Chinese peasant in the Middle Ages was so dramatically different from the life of a European peasant - night and day different.
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The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?
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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 nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call "accumulative advantage.
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People at CDC [Centers for Disease Control] who cut their teeth on diseases over the last 10 years have started to think of crime as another disease, and using some of these same concepts. It was something that was in the air in that world, but it was time to bust it out and apply it to any number of different social epidemics.
The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.
Take a random group of 8-year-old American and Japanese kids, give them all a really, really hard math problem, and start a stopwatch. The American kids will give up after 30, 40 seconds. If you let the test run for 15 minutes, the Japanese kids will not have given up. You have to take it away.
David Epstein, the author of the best book on athletics in recent memory - "The Sports Gene" - wrote to me to say that he thinks I'm being overly generous. He points out that, for years, there used to be an "all-star challenge" on television, in which the best professional athletes from a variety of sports competed in a kind of makeshift decathlon.
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My highest compliment is when someone comes up to me to say, "My 14-year-old daughter, or my 12-year-old son read your book and loved it." I cannot conceive of a greater compliment than that - to write something that as an adult I find satisfying, but also that manages to reach a curious 13- or 14-year-old.