Those three things - autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievements in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't.
The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any ‘grinds,’ people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder. The idea that excellence at a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of excellence. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.
Economists often talk about the 80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the “work” will be done by 20 percent of the participants. In most societies, 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes. Twenty percent of motorists cause 80 percent of all accidents. Twenty percent of beer drinkers drink 80 percent of all beer. When it comes to epidemics, though, this disproportionality becomes even more extreme: a tiny percentage of people do the majority of the work.
A woman who walks away from the promise of power finds the strength to forgive – and saves her friendship, her marriage, and her sanity. The world is turned upside down.
The entire principle of a blind taste test was ridiculous. They shouldn't have cared so much that they were losing blind taste tests with old Coke, and we shouldn't at all be surprised that Pepsi's dominance in blind taste tests never translated to much in the real world. Why not? Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind.
The mistake we make in thinking of character as something unified and all-encompassing is very similar to a kind of blind spot in the way we process information. Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context.
We have become obsessed with what is good about small classrooms and oblivious about what also can be good about large classes. It’s a strange thing isn't it, to have an educational philosophy that thinks of the other students in the classroom with your child as competitors for the attention of the teacher and not allies in the adventure of learning.
Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.
A man employs the full power of the state in his grief and ends up plunging his government into a fruitless and costly experiment. A woman who walks away from the promise of power finds the strength to forgive - and saves her friendship, her marriage, and her sanity. The world is turned upside down. - Chapter 8
... forgiveness is a religious imperative: forgive those who trespass against you. But it is also a very practical strategy based on the belief that there are profound limits to what the formal mechanisms of retribution can accomplish.
Our first impressions are generated by our experiences and our environment, which means that we can change our first impressions . . . by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions.
Whenever we have something that we are good at--something we care about--that experience and passion fundamentally change the nature of our first impressions.
The power of knowing, in that first two seconds, is not a gift given magically to a fortunate few. It is an ability that we can all cultivate for ourselves.
There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources- and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.
So why don’t Americans cheat? Because they think that their system is legitimate. People accept authority when they see that it treats everyone equally, when it is possible to speak up and be heard, and when there are rules in place that assure you that tomorrow you won’t be treated radically different from how you are treated today. Legitimacy is based on fairness, voice and predictability, and the U.S. government, as much as Americans like to grumble about it, does a pretty good job of meeting all three standards. Pg. 293
Emotion goes inside-out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true. If I can make you smile, I can make you happy. If I can make you frown, I can make you sad. Emotion, in this sense, goes outside-in.
I've been in auditions without screens, and I can assure you that I was prejudiced. I began to listen with my eyes, and there is no way that your eyes don't affect your judgement. The only true way to listen is with your ears and your heart. (p.251)
Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were—that is, our genes. It depended on the decisions we made—on what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.
We form our impression not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally, by comparing ourselves to people in the same boat as ourselves.
[Research] suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize.
The notion that the only way you can critically engage with a person’s ideas is to take a shot at them, is to be openly critical — this is actually nonsense. Some of the most effective ways in which you deal with someone’s idea are to treat them completely at face value, and with an enormous amount of respect. That’s actually a faster way to engage with what they’re getting at than to lob grenades in their direction…If you’re going to hold someone to what they believe, make sure you accurately represent what they believe.
If you are a white person who would like to treat black people as equals in every way—who would like to have a set of associations with blacks that are as positive as those that you have with whites—it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren’t betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort. Taking rapid cognition seriously--acknowledging the incredible power, for good and ill, that first impression play in our lives--requires that we take active steps to manage and control those impressions.
For every remote miss who becomes stronger, there are countless near misses who are crushed by what they have been through. There are times and places, however, when all of us depend on people who have been hardened by their experiences.
Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
For almost a generation, psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some do – the innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger role preparation seems to play.
Bad improvisers block action, often with a high degree of skill. Good improvisers develop action.(p.115)
To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success...with a society that provides opportunities for all.
But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied, sometimes it's just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen. (p313)
Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.
Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice--perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again--and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. . . . spontaneity isn't random.
Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of (these) one-sided conflicts. Because the act of facing overwhelming odds, produces greatness and beauty.
Six degrees of separation doesn't mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.
The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.