Tuesday, March 1, 2011

we are products of our circumstances

i just finished this book:

it was actually really enlightening. gladwell talks about how every "talented" or "successful" person is that way because of some extraordinary opportunities that have presented themselves in his or her life. we often think that people like bill gates are so successful because they are super talented or smart, and that is usually a part of it--you can't get very far in your chosen field without some degree of innate talent or aptitude--but it's only a part. the rest of the road to success is paved with a series of seemingly unrelated lucky breaks.

this is really fascinating to me. i mean, the beatles were talented. but they might not have become the beatles and had the same sort of influence on music if they hadn't taken several gigs in hamburg where they had to play for eight hours straight every night. and, maybe part of the reason asians are so good at math is because their number words only take a quarter of a second to say instead of a third like they do in english. 
it is interesting to me that we try to give our own explanations for things that are usually way more simplified than they should be. in reality, we are always influenced by many, many things--cultural legacy, language, random events, history, education, genes. all of these things shape our destiny.

i wonder whether outlier-like things have happened to me in my life and i just haven't recognized that something that happened to me was totally random and actually made a huge impact. 

or maybe i'm just one of those people who just missed the golden opportunity. i kind of hope not.

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