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The more important (and interesting) part of the chapter, though, discusses the

huge role that nearly-obsessive practice plays in making people great. Gladwell
uses The Beatles and Bill Gates as examples here, showing how they both were abl
e to take advantage of stupendous amounts of practice time to become very, very
good at what they did. In each case, Gladwell estimated that it took 10,000 hour
s of practice for those individuals to hone their natural raw talents and become
world class
roughly ten years of multiple hours of practice (3 or so on average
) every single day. Gladwell offers
Shouldn t IQ be a strong indicator of success in life? It turns out that IQ is onl
y a minor indicator of success
people who are successful often have a higher-tha
n-average IQ, but IQ alone is not a predictor of success. Gladwell demonstrates
this using several different angles, but perhaps the most stark was his example
of a creative test given to two children. It turned out that the one who had sco
red higher on an IQ test was actually significantly less creative than the other
child the high-IQ child gave functionally correct answers, but they didn t posses
s that spark of creativity that the answers from the other child provided. In ot
her words, IQ is just one small piece of the puzzle for success
a high IQ is not
necessary to succeed, though there may be a minimum IQ threshold for success
In fact, there are two factors that seem to be as big (or bigger) than IQ in det
ermining whether someone will be successful or not. The first is parenting what
kind of culture is the child raised in? A home where a child is encouraged to le
arn for themselves, develop an independent and questioning and creative nature,
and receive support in this growth is far more likely to see adult success than
a child without this. A second major factor discussed here is social skills: doe
s a person interact well with others? Are they able to convince others to see th
ings their way? Gladwell seems to make the case that these factors in conjunctio
n with creativity and at least an average IQ (though having an above-average one
helps) are big keys to success.
Five: The Three Lessons of Joe Flom
Gladwell applies some of the lessons of the first four chapters here in a revie
w of the life of Joe Flom, who built the law firm of Skaaden, Arps into one of t
he largest in the world. Gladwell ignored intelligence and personality and focus
ed instead on other aspects of Flom s growth: the Jewish culture he grew up in, pu
re demographic luck (meaning he was born at the right time in the right social s
ituation), and the work ethic instilled by having entrepreneurial parents who wo
rked hard and used their minds to succeed. In other words, Flom had a culture, a
n opportunity, and an example of success in his life.
Harlan, Kentucky has an extensive (and rather violent) history that revolves dee
ply around individual and familial pride. Gladwell brings it up here because one
can actually see the cultural heritage of Harlan (and many other nearby towns)
in the residents that live there today. In other words, the culture of Harlan th
at has persisted since the 1800s is still apparent in the area today and still a
ffects the personality growth and demeanor of people who grow up in that culture
. From this, Gladwell concludes that many people are, in ways both mundane and s
urprising, products of the environment and culture they grew up in.
Seven: The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes
Gladwell offers up an intertwined set of stories about plane crashes and how cr
ews handle them to illustrate how cultural norms can change how exactly people h
andle stressful or challenging situations. In the primary example, Gladwell look
s at submissiveness in Korean culture and how it created a dangerous series of s
ituations on Korean Air flights, mostly because Korean Air adopted the norms of
Korean culture. This resulted in individuals on the flight crew being more submi
ssive than they should be, and this submissiveness resulted in a poor safety rec
ord for Korean Air. It took cultural reforms within the business to change this,
resulting in Korean Air becoming one of the safest airlines.

What about the cultural idea that people from Asian cultures are better at math?
There are actually several cultural reasons for this, which Gladwell discusses
at length. The most memorable for me was that Chinese uses very short syllables
for numbers, enabling students to save more numbers in their short term memory t
han students from other languages and cultures. Not only does this make some bas
ic mathematics easier for Chinese students, it also means that their mathematica
l education can move faster, resulting in more and stronger coverage of basic ma
thematical concepts.
Nine: Marita s Bargain
Here, one observation stood out above all the rest, and it really tells the ent
ire story of this chapter. Over summer vacation, students from poor or middle-in
come backgrounds tend to stay the same or actually slightly regress in terms of
their reading skills. Students from upper-income backgrounds, however, continue
to grow in their skills at a rate roughly equal to continued schooling during va
cation. The result? After several years, there s a genuine achievement gap between
low income children and high income children. The difference? During the summer
, the high-income children are pushed to read, learn, and grow. Their culture at
home is about learning, and because it s a cultural norm, it s a part of their ever
yday life.