Wednesday, April 29, 2009


During a recent interview with Fareed Zakaria, New Yorker staff writer gone author Malcolm Gladwell discussed the findings of his latest work, Outliers, which examines the interplay between (seemingly arbitrary elements in an individual's) social environment and opportunities for personal success. As an example, Gladwell pointed to the painstakingly intense eight-hour-a-day practice regiment that the Beatles undertook while in Berlin, Germany. Summarizing his anecdotal evidence, the author asserted: "Talent is the desire to practice."

I doubt Gladwell meant to downplay an individual's innate natural proclivities to excel in certain domains; rather, I understand Gladwell as refocusing our attention on the nurture side of the equation - specifically, on the environment that one intentionally (and at times merely by chance) enters into for cultivating and disciplining the body through repetition. How often, in our own lives, do we labor tirelessly for an outcome or skill-set that, once achieved, subsumes its own past? How talented are you at riding a bicycle?

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