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Malcolm Gladwell Quotes

Malcolm Timothy Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell quotes: highlights from his books and speeches.

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”

“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard.”

“Working really hard is what successful people do.”

“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.”

“No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.”

“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.”

“It’s very hard to find someone who’s successful and dislikes what they do.”

“Incompetence is certainty in the absence of expertise. Overconfidence is certainty in the presence of expertise.”

“We need to look at the subtle, the hidden and the unspoken.”

“When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.”

“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 place in history presents us with.”

“We have the kind of self-made man myth, which says that super-successful people did it themselves. Nobody accomplishes success by themselves.”

“Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency.”

“You can’t concentrate on doing anything if you are thinking, ‘What’s gonna happen if it doesn’t go right?'”

“We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail.”

“Innovators have to be open. They have to be able to imagine things that others cannot and be willing to challenge their own preconceptions. They also need to be conscientious. An innovator who has brilliant ideas but lacks the discipline and persistence to carry them out is merely a dreamer. But crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable. They are people willing to take social risks—to do things that others might disapprove of.”

“If you are going to do something truly innovative, you have to be someone who does not value social approval. You can’t need social approval to go forward. Otherwise, how would you ever do the thing that you are doing?”

“The 10,000 Hour Rule is a definite key in success. Well, it’s roughly how long it takes to put in 10,000 hours of hard practice; 10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.”

“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.”

“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. 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.”

“Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky—but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

“I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

“Instead of thinking about talent as something that you acquire, talent should be thought of as something that you develop.”

“Achievement is talent plus preparation.”

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

“Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.”

“Performance ought to improve with experience, and pressure is an obstacle that the diligent can overcome.”

“Sometimes the most modest changes can bring about enormous effects.”

“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.”

“What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement.”

“For younger kids, repetition is really valuable. They demand it. When they see a show over and over again, they not only are understanding it better, which is a form of power, but just by predicting what is going to happen, I think they feel a real sense of affirmation and self-worth.”

“An incredibly high percentage of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. That’s one of the little-known facts.”

“The act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.”

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

“I think that persistence and stubbornness and hard work are probably, at the end of the day, more important than the willingness to take a risk.”

“Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.”

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. It’s whether our work fulfills us.”

“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.”

“What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.”

“The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.”

“The only true way to listen is with your ears and your heart.”

“The successful are those who have been given opportunities.”

“The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that 13 year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one 13 year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?”

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest 9 and 10 year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call ‘accumulative advantage.'”

“Character isn’t what we think it is or, rather, what we want it to be. It isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits, and it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brains are organized. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context.”

“Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.”

“Emotion is contagious.”

“In life, most of us are highly skilled at suppressing action. All the improvisation teacher has to do is to reverse this skill and he creates very ‘gifted’ improvisers. Bad improvisers block action, often with a high degree of skill. Good improvisers develop action.”

“If you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.”

“Occasions when you can change your mind should be cherished, because they mean you’re smarter than you were before. Change your mind about something significant every day.”

“Insight is not a light bulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”

“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.”

“Some pretend to be rich, yet have nothing; others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.”

“We all assume that if you’re weak and poor, you’re never going to win. In fact, the real world is full of examples where the exact opposite happens, where the weak win and the strong screw up.”

“Through embracing the diversity of humans beings, we will find a sure way to true happiness.”

“The answer is that 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.”

“If you look at the careers of great entrepreneurs and you look at the moment they took their plunge, the plunge is rarely a great financial or material risk, it’s a social risk. At the moment they started their new businesses, everyone around them said, ‘You’re an idiot.'”

“Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”

“Acquaintances represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have the more powerful you are.”

“The great accomplishment of Steve Jobs‘ life is how effectively he put his idiosyncrasies—his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness—in the service of perfection.”

“I don’t think we are averse to thinking about things in a deep way, but we have limited time and opportunity to think about things in a deep way. I think that’s why there is an appetite for non-fiction. It gives people the opportunity to reexamine ordinary experience and be smarter about it.”

“Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.”

“My writing model is my mother, who is a writer as well. She always valued clarity and simplicity above all else. If someone doesn’t understand what you’re writing, then everything else you do is superfluous. Irrelevant. If any thoughtful, curious reader finds what I do impenetrable, I’ve failed.”

“I wrote my first book when I was in my late thirties. I am a storyteller, and I look to academic research for ways of augmenting storytelling.”

“Sometimes constraints actually create success. Not being able to swim made me run. And running taught me the discipline I needed as a writer.”

“If you’re smarter than me, you shouldn’t be reading my books.”

“Clear writing is universal. People talk about writing down to an audience or writing up to an audience; I think that’s nonsense. If you write in a way that is clear, transparent and elegant, it will reach everyone.”

“As a writer, the best mindset is to be unafraid.”

“If you take away the gift of reading, you create the gift of listening.”

“It’s not about how smart you are. It’s about your values.”

“It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us.”

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

“Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these one-sided conflicts.”

“If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.”

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