In Outliers, he argues that success is not so much a product of personal achievement, but occurs by a combination of circumstance, opportunities, and culture. It is often factors beyond our control that create the opportunities for some people to be enormously successful. While its difficult to disagree with Gladwell's arguments, I find them a bit frustrating. It really seems like so much of success happens by chance, and while Gladwell gives examples of how society's can increase their peoples chances of success, there doesn't seem to be a lot you can do on an individual level.
The most interesting concept for me was the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to truly become proficient at something. Gladwell sites examples ranging from professional Canadian hockey players, to Bill Gates, to the Beatles - all of whom had opportunities to get in 10,000 hours before their peers, thereby making them more successful.
The 10,000 hours concept makes me curious about the students I teach. Every semester that I teach beginning jewelry/metals, I always have one or two students who seem to have a natural affinity for the material - an innate set of hand skills. After reading Outliers, I wonder if this is actually the case. I'd love to know more about the childhoods of my students. Did the ones with the "natural ability" spend more time building and making things and just using their hands as children? Were they already closer to 10,000 hours of manual dexterity than their peers? Is there a way to predict which students will be the most talented metalsmiths based on their childhood experiences?
I'm already interested in understanding the growing lack of hand skills among my students. Now, I'd like to apply the theories in Outliers to see if there really is a way to predict which students might be the most successful metalsmiths and if there is a way to help all my students become more successful.