These Three Conditions are Squandering Human Potential


We all have dreams.

Not just The 8 Percent. Not just the people who aspire to be. All of us.

But how many of us ever turn our dream into a reality? How many capitalise upon the great ideas in our minds, and turn them into great work?

You probably predict the number is pretty low. Well, the research shows is probably even lower than that.

Macolm Gladwell is an author, speaker, and journalist for The New York Times. He’s the man that popularised the notion that 10,000 hours of dedicated practice are required to be world-class in any field.

Despite that idea being debunked a few years ago, Gladwell is still one of the most respected experts when it comes to recognising what it takes to achieve excellence.

In a 2009 PopTech Talk, Gladwell revealed the three conditions he believes are blocking the majority of people from pursuing their vision. Backed by insightful data and an optimistic outlook, his argument holds substantial weight.

Here are the three conditions:

1) Poverty

The very fact that you’re reading this tells me a few things –

– You can afford the internet.
– You have the time to browse it.
– You have an inclination and understanding of how to educate yourself.

The world’s impoverished have none of these.

It can be hard to truly empathise with them if you have never been in the same position before, especially considering the romanticisation of ‘rags-to-riches’ stories in our society, but Gladwell shares a simple story that highlights the extent of their plight.

He tells of a school in a poorer area of Los Angeles with staggering low attendance rates. The rate is not low because students are lazy. It’s not low because students don’t want to be in class.

It’s low because, for students in the precinct to attend, they would have to cross gang lines. And they’re not going to risk their lives for a little education.

If they can’t even attend high school, how will they ever acquire the knowledge and skill to capitalise on their dreams?

2) Stupidity

Gladwell puts it bluntly. You have to appreciate his honesty.

What he means by stupidity are the kinds of artificial limitations we place on talent development.

The example he provides is of a Canadian All-Star hockey team, on which only 5 of 25 players were born in the second half of the year.

Why is that? Because the training camp uses birthdays to determine which students are eligible for entry.

Players of the age at which they are selected for the camp tend not to be specifically skillful. But what an eight year old player born in January often has an obvious advantage over a kid born in October of the same year is size.

So it’s not the talented kids that necessarily get selected. It’s the big kids. And so the capitalisation rate is about 50%.

Pretty stupid, right?

3) Commitment

You might not need to work 10,000 to become great at something, but you can’t expect to become a contender overnight.

We’ve been taught to revere high IQs and natural talent, but they’re not what creates success.

What creates success is hard work.

The problem is that culture, specifically Western culture, seems to have pretty much forgotten that.

Gladwell tells of the mysticism surrounding the unparalleled achievements of Chinese-American students compared to their white counterparts. While some psychologists have put it down to the Chinese simply being smarter, Gladwell is quick to dismiss that.

The reason he sees for the radical difference is that white American students weren’t raised to love the challenge. They were taught to try, and then move on if a situation seems too complicated.

Guess what? Achieving excellence is complicated, and it’s only through understanding this that we can ever hope to succeed.

Gladwell ends on a positive note. He knows that dealing with these conditions will be difficult, but at least by identifying them, we have put ourselves in a position to deal with them.

Now it’s up to us to make the change.

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