Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Malcolm Gladwell On Genius

Found this interesting video on The New Yorker's site, it's Malcolm Gladwell speaking on genius. His premise is that there are (at least?) two different kinds of geniuses, one is the type who may arrive at genius via an incredible inimitable moment of inspiration, another is someone who's very smart and arrives at genius after years of focused study.

I may be a little off on the details there, because I grabbed the link a few weeks back and I can't rewatch the video now. But his "point to help the world" was certainly that we should care more about educating the populace at large such that we have more "very smart" people that can apply themselves to the big problems/challenges in life.

This sort of pigeontails with my theory on genius, that being that we shouldn't view it as a skill or trait that an individual possesses, but more a zone or a place that we enter and leave. Genius, as I see it, is almost like falling in love. We all have the capacity for it, and perhaps some are more predisposed to fall than others, but everyone has their moments.

The real takeaway was Gladwell noting that studies show 100,000 hours of focused study is what's needed to become a master of something. And this translates to about ten years (actually 11.5, but thereabouts).

This makes a lot of sense to me and gives an interesting fixed boundary to work with. If you start working a job at 22, and stay there for ten years, at 32 you should be a master. And filmmakers and artists who start at 20, may hit their stride at 30. And of course you can accelerate or slow down the process according to how much you want to focus. And it highlights how you inhibit your potential in one fieldby spreading yourself across many fields. The phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" speaks directly to this 100,000 hours theory.

So now I'm trying to log my hours spent doing music, or writing songs, or blogging, or my other creative/professional interests. And I'm becoming more conscious of the time I spend doing things. Like, I'm already a master at drinking now, so I can focus my attention on other stuff. Like sex maybe. I might need more hours there.

How about you? In what field are your genius/master hours logged? Where do you need to log more?

100,000 Hours To Genius [New Yorker]


  1. tan, i just want you to know that i'm a white jewish guy and i have some really pressing questions for you. why do you shil for gawker and let them treat you like a token dark boy and then complain about tokenism on your blog? why do you allow yourself to be tom'd? they are so cavalier and snarky about race but they never or rarely make light of their jewish insiderism or their particular form of white jewish nyc snarkiness. why do you not call the gawker guys and girls out for all manner of "black this" and "gay that" but for not at all (o rarely) having irony about their own ethnic stereotyping and the way their snarky entertainment buzz gives into the worse (and sometimes true) stereotypes of jewish american entertainment world cliquish (where blacks are mostly guiltily excluded, gays are ornaments =--even to themselves--and other jews always get hired on the inside)? why do you enable this? what about having fun and calling them out? why is it easier to make stupid fun of yourself and race issues as they pertain to blacks but then not do the same for the jewish guys and gals that pay you to minstrel for them, al jolson-style (and, remember that, blackface racist mamie-singing al jolson was born abraham rabinowitz and very jewish)? is it ok to make fun of blacks but not of jews? why not complain about jewish racism and exclusion and how it affects so many people in media and entertainment? are you afraid that criticizing one ethnic group like that will get you marked as a bigot? aren't you more daring then that or are you REALLY an assimilated enabler? i know you like having fun and ironizing and all but, dude: where's your sense of depth and responsibility? wtf?

  2. wow, walter went deep on us dude.

    on to subject at hand...i read that gladwell piece and loved it. he is always thought-provoking. i need to find that video clip.

  3. Seems that Walter is exhibiting his ax grinding genius.

    I love The Assimilated Enabler. Now THAT's genius.

  4. Anonymous5/29/2007

    My genius is smoking weed. I always need to log a few more hours. It's interesting: in school, I was pegged as a "genius". I scored way off the charts on a bunch of diff. IQ tests. So far, my genius has done nothing for me (she types from her office job). My genius is more amorphous than doing a task or X really well. I learn things really quickly, read incredibly fast and learn languages easily. I've never really focused on one thing with the intent of mastery. So is it nature or nurture?

  5. I've spent over 100,000 hours butchering relationships. I always thought that I should be acknowledged for all the hard work that I put into it. I put all of myself into irrational temper fits and bruising egos.

  6. walter5/29/2007

    it's not genuis when you act like a coon and let people--any people, snarky jews, waspy whites--make you their slave boy and then not have the balls to satirize it. and no: i don't know gawker, or TAN and i live in canada with my jewish family and friends so i don't have an axe to grind. but i do find veiled jewish racism to be as sad as any other kind of crap and i've always wondered by TAN, a wonderful satirist and often a pretty profound dude would let his ass get tom'd like that all the damn time and not say anything about it when he talks satirical trash about everything else... maybe some criticism is a good thing, sometimes, tan.

  7. Walter - I don't know, I think I'm an equal opportunity offender. Not that it speaks directly to satirizing Jews per se, but my last Ghetto Pass column led off with the line "First of all, can I just say F*CK GAWKER!" So certainly I'm not averse to calling out the blog that feeds me.

    I also jabbed a little at jewish-owned black blogs/black bloggers in my Q&A with stereohyped.

    this is an odd post to bring it up, since i'm not satirizing anything here, but I do appreciate the compliments contained within your general criticism. And your seeming quest for balance and equality.

    I should also add that the show is far from over, so hopefully you'll stay tuned.

    Cajun - the links in the post take you the video clip.

  8. I think walter is giving gawker way too much credit. Its a fad- flash in the pan thing. Gawker does nothing good for humanity, so why would you expect anything but racist exclusionary behavior from them? If gawker was a person he'd be a snobby superficial rat with no moral compass who talks trash about everyone. Racial elitism is a minor problem compared to the social disentigration I see evidenced by Gawkers popularity...

  9. songmyong5/29/2007

    You know: this is the first time I am posting a comment. I love your blog, T.A.N. and I'm glad you responded to Walter. I live in Canada too. And I'm Korean.

    Walter raised some excellent points and there is indeed a huge problem with subtle and also overt racism and stereotyping against both Blacks and Asians among some (not all) Jewish voices within many sectors of entertainment and media, including online. It's a problem that has deep roots within the often under-discussed lines of patronage and connections among many Jewish producers, casters, reporters and others in the media who claim liberalism but who often mostly support their own. People do not often criticize the Jewish producers who foster horrible stereotypes of blacks, browns, and yellows, despite being a historically oppressed group (and Jewish people are not monolithic so my comments are hardly meant to apply to all Jewish people at all).

    These problems are not often brought up because there is a fear of being thought to be anti-semitic. It's an understandable fear because there is a lot of hate for Jewish people out there. But, Jewish people who create endlessly problematic depictions of Asians and blacks; who enable bad black musical and cinematic choices; who parody blacks to their detriment; who have the pride of ownership but rarely the dignity of thinking out of the box with casting choices; these people must be criticized and we cannot only assume that all white people are the same. Some whites who foster racism against blacks and Asians are Jews. Walter's historical citation of Al Jolson was only the tip of the iceberg.

    In Hollywood where my brother is trying to make it as an actor, the worse offenders in terms of maintaining the status quo of bigoted casting, story lines, and hiring practices just happen to be Jewish Americans and this is never, ever discussed or critiqued. Walter's word "insiderism" was more than apt.

    I also totally disagree with Shana. Gawker is a lot bigger problem than she seems to believe. As many oppressed Jews have beautifully written: it is the banal, mocking, jocking, seemingly normalized racism--the kind that (as Shana says) is a "a fad- flash in the pan thing" that perpetuates the worse and greatest problem because it seems so normal and everyday.

    Openly talking about Jewish bigotry in entertainment and media can get one blacklisted and branded forever. I often urge my brother never to utter any criticism. But, for an oppressed people, the hypocrisy is severe. Where, I often wonder, is the accountability?

    One of the problems with Gawker is that it is symptomatic of a wealth of similar vicious race-baiting, homosexual-baiting (by both gay people and straights; Queerty is gay-run but that doesn't mean that it is not luridly homophobic and it's not funny to lesbians like me)...However, that blog is not as lurid as Perezhilton.

    One think that makes all of this even more devastating is that this bigotry persists--this meanness goes unaccounted for--because the owners and producers know that it sells, that people in this day and age are deeply foul-spirited and they long for bigoted, nasty jibs and thoughts. From where I stand on the other side of North America, the states are a hell of a lot more bigoted than ever before but it is just so everyday and taken for granted now.

    Gawker does often claim to some seriousness, especially in its "reporting" on publishing, and despite the nasty, New York vicious, mean-spirited tone of the "writing."

    So thanks for being open to this criticism T.A.N. You are the stronger man for taking this kind of heat.

  10. Anonymous5/29/2007

    Dammit. I have job hopped way too many times to make it as a blue collar master. I'm thirty now and I've been writing since I was ten, but I haven't logged my hours and I've definitely taken long sabbaticals. Maybe the hundred thousand hours theory is related to the million words of crap theory? This is the idea that you have to write a million words of garbage before you can produce a competent piece of literature. I just got eighty eight words closer with this comment!

  11. I think Walter had some good points but I don't think it's his place to be insinuating to a Black person that they're a coon or Stepinfetchit. Inching into "n-word" category there, and as we've discussed ad nauseum, that kind of name-calling is reserved for the folks working on the plantation, not the folks sitting on the outside looking in while sipping their mint juleps.

    Lately my genius seems to be inspiring Schadenfreude. And I don't even have to make an effort.

  12. i don't read gawker.

    end of problem for me.

    genius... i think you can have flashes of genius, that 'ah-HA' moment, no matter if you are trained for something or not. where the neurons of your brain line up and the answer is clear.. or, you can be a true genius. i have a child who's iq is the genius level..his thought process is beyond anything i can follow.. the kid does calculus in his head. can he function on a day to day life? no. is he the funniest thing on two feet? yes. do i have any idea where i'm going with this?

    i don't read gawker.

    did i mention that already?

  13. Anonymous5/31/2007

    Isn't it the 10,000 hour rule?

  14. so much hate for gawker.

    quite honestly, i enjoyed "ghetto pass" much more than these "first responder" videos.

    you have much more to share than solely being a voiceover.

    yet who am i to say anything. i'm just a lowly commenter.

  15. Anonymous6/22/2007

    I think it is great that we can use the N-word in such an open forum. Why didn't you use the N'er-word? This is exactly why the word cannot get over racism and predjudice, nobody can stop or find alternate words in the place of such filth!

  16. Anonymous7/14/2011

    Anyhoo, Gladwell talks about 10,000 hours, not 100k.


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