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Recently I read somewhere, that I should make notes of what I read and review them from time to time. I decided to give it a try, since I read a lot and I think making such notes will be for me a way of remembering best ideas, quotes, or whatever from my books and magazines. I also decided to share those notes with you, in edited form as some have gotten pretty long. In many cases I copied whole passages without noting the page numbers, which is against good reference practices, but of course I will list title and author of a book (or article) where I got the notes from.

I do that with hope that at least some of you will reach for mentioned magazine or book when you will find my notes interesting. Ach, one more thing: small number of notes do not mean that the book or magazine was not good…

Here is what I noted from the book “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell:

[…] The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours. “The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything,” writes neurologist Daniel Levitin. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

[…] Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.

[…] Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that you do that makes you good.

[…] psychologist Robert Sternberg calls “practical intelligence”. To Sternberg, practical intelligence includes things like “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” It is procedural: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it. It’s practical in nature: that is, it’s not knowledge for its own sake. It is knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want. And, critically, it is a kind of intelligence separate from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ. To use the technical term, general intelligence and practical intelligence are “orthogonal”: the presence of one doesn’t imply the presence of the other.

[…] Where does something like practical intelligence come from? We know where analytical intelligence comes from. It’s something, at least in part, that’s in your genes.

[…] IQ is a measure, to some degree, of innate ability. But social savvy is knowledge. It’s a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from somewhere, and the place where we seem to get these kinds of attitudes and skills is from our families.

[…] The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.

[…] Those three things: autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.

[…] Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.

[…] Each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific.

[…] Success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed.

[…] Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

[…] To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.

This book could be very sad – it gives you hope in the way as to state where is the limit of your hard work – sacrifice 10.000 hours on something, and you should be a world class talent (well, you cannot just stop there. You need to go on). Your kids can now decide if they want to pursue certain career. Actually, you can too, if you have enough time. But on the other hand, book also tells you that this may not be enough: you need to be born at the right time, in right family and at the right place, having right cultural background. That is beyond our control. Most of us will not have such luck as to have all those conditions fulfilled to achieve extraordinary success. Last sentence which I noted from that book is not possible to achieve – we cannot all have same chances and opportunities, we are different. So no hope here. But shall it all mean that we should not strive for mastery of subject that interest us? Shall we not pursue better lives? Of course we shall. Most of us will be in some way successful, we may not be exceptional, but small victories do count too. Let’s not forget that. It may now be easier to realize that what we have achieved with our own work is a great success of sorts – and if you will look at this book from that point of view, it becomes positive. It tells you, that despite you not having all those things outliers had, you still managed to achieve something. I know I did.