Success, Malcolm Gladwell and being an Outlier

In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book ‘Outliers’, about the story of success, he writes:

“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.”

What’s all this about twenty two seconds?  He tells a story about a young Maths student trying to work out an algebra problem.  Where most students would spend anything from thirty seconds to five minutes trying to solve a problem, this young woman spends twenty two minutes before she solves the problem. The others, taking less time, give up.

This reminds me of my approach to doing crosswords, versus my husband’s.  He will spend a long time, in fact, however long it takes, to solve all the clues.  Whereas I just don’t bother; if the answer doesn’t ‘come to me’ in a few minutes, I just stop doing the crossword, no matter if it isn’t finished.

The point of all this is to highlight how important is persistence, and taking the time needed to achieve what you are trying to achieve, be it solving an algebraic problem, a crossword puzzle, or a business challenge.

I know for myself that when something doesn’t change quickly, I am tempted to float away to something else, and think ‘oh well that hasn’t worked, never mind’.  When clearly it would behove me to put more time and energy into having the problem be solved.

This applies particularly to the use of positive affirmations – I know it’s easy to give up on them after just a few days when nothing much has changed. But it really does work to persist with them, or your visualisations, or whatever inner work you are doing.

My favourite method is to commit to doing them for a few days, and then check in and choose to re-commit for another few days. That way everything is broken down into more manageable pieces, I don’t get overwhelmed, and success is made more and more likely. Try it and see!

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