I just finished Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success where he says that place, cultural legacy and people are critical in an individual’s success and that trying to narrowly and incorrectly define the success of people such as Bill Gates or Paul Allen through the myth of a lone-wolf is missing the point. In one of his chapters, he links wet-rice farming, math skills and the Asian people together with some interesting research. His basic point was that cultures that depended on labor intensive wet-rice farming methods spent double the amount of annual hourly labor in taking care of their fields. This cultural legacy spilled over to the intensity of preparation for children in their studies. The interesting part of this story was that while Asian’s didn’t necessarily have a higher IQ in general, their ability to spend far more focused time (30% more in one of his examples) trying to solve math problems led to an significant increase in their mathematical ability.
The second article I read today was about the “The New Work Ethic‘ where the point was being made that the work ethic of the new generation should not just be to work hard, but be more focused on whatever they are working on. This resonated well with me since a different chapter in Outliers mentions the 10,000 hour rule, which represents the number of hours to truly develop mastery of a specific skillset. It’s implied in the description of those who had accumulated these hours that they were 10,000 focused hours, not simple hours spent watching tv while practicing a violin for example.
Finally, this morning, I ended up chancing on the discovery channel episode regarding the evolution of the Shaolin Temple in China. The temple has long trained fighting monks who are perfect examples of those gaining mastery of their practice using focused attention and long hours of practice.
So it’s nice to see reinforcing perspectives the importance of focused attention, and long term hard work to develop mastery of a skill.