Why Should I Read | Outliers

What is the question we always ask about the successful?

We want to know what they are like, what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top.

Outliers, pg. 18

Malcolm Gladwell is an author who typifies Mark Twain’s exhortation to be a “prodigious noticer.” While Twain used his prodigious noticing power to point out humor, Gladwell takes stock of common assumptions and everyday opinions.

As an author, Gladwell, asks “why” in a way that is entertaining and informative.

The American archetype is an individual who is a “self-made man” or someone who “overcame the odds.” This book takes a closer look at the assumption that we hold regarding success. Gladwell comes right out and says it bluntly, “People don’t rise from nothing” (pg 18). He states that one’s background, family upbringing, and environment have much to do with later success. This is a fascinating aspect of the book, and I encourage you to go check it out.

This revelation doesn’t lift the burden from individuals who desire success though. There is still a threshold of mastery one must overcome to even consider becoming an outlier in a certain area.

 Through the stories of people like Bill Gates and the Beatles, Gladwell points out that people who are massively successful had the opportunity to put in ten thousand hours of practice in their field of endeavor before they became massively successful. A study by K. Anders Ericsson of violin students at the Berlin’s elite Academy of Music, demonstrated this trend in 100% of the students there. All of the students tested were already in the top level of music school, but yet were separated into three groups. “Group A” were potential world-class soloists, “Group B” were merely ‘good,’ and “Group C” were unlikely to play professionally and were headed to be public school music teachers.

violin pic

Ericcson’s researchers discovered that by the age of twenty, all  of the elite performers had logged ten thousand hours of practice time. The merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers roughly four thousand.

Here’s where things got crazy for me as I was reading this portion of the book. From pg. 39

The striking thing about Ericcson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that 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. And 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.

According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, “No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.”

Levitin states that this concept of ten thousand hours holds true across a multitude of disciplines: writers, basketball players, master criminals, chess players, etc.

That idea is extremely empowering when one gets right down to the base premise:

If you will put in your ten thousand hours, you will become a master at what you have chosen to do.

I remember reading this concept when I was 18, and thinking to myself, “I have a several chunks of ten thousand hours available to me if I live a regular life span.” And it’s true for you as well, if you desire to completely master a topic, within ten thousand hours of practice you can achieve that goal. I can look at my  grandfather who is a master at farming strawberries. You could ask him any question regarding the fruit, and he would be able to tell you all about the relevant process. This knowledge comes from owning a strawberry farm since 1976.

There are a number of other topics housed within our assumptions about success that Gladwell deconstructs throughout the book. Yet without mastery in a subject, one is unable to capitalize on their latent advantages of culture, upbringing, and environment.

Overall, this book is massively fun to read due to the plethora of stories Gladwell uses. Hockey player birthdays, Jewish lawyers of the 1970’s, Asian math abilities, and the smartest men in the world are just the beginning.

So what have you put ten thousand hours towards?

Have you seen this week’s video?

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Why Should I Read | Eat That Frog

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day.


According to Brian Tracy, “eating frogs” is a fun way to refer to overcoming procrastination.

Frog 2

There are 21 practices outlined in this book. All of them are immediately practicable for those interested in being more effective in the time that they have.

Do you fit this description?

If so, you may be looking for the “5 Easy Steps to Get More Done.”

I know I’ve clicked those articles before hoping there was some shortcut.

However, the one habit that could outshine all the others in the book may be the toughest of them all.

Here it is, start every work day by doing the most difficult task first.

Why?

Implementing this habit rids your day of procrastination.

As an interesting aside, the psychology of procrastinating is a fascinating topic. Here are two links, first to a fun Ted talk (Instant Gratification Monkey!), and second, a PsychologyToday article titled 10 Things to Know About Procrastination.

So to develop this habit, Tracy says there are seven steps that combine to maximize your capacity to scarf down that big, ugly frog first thing in the morning.

  1. Written List. This is a pre-emptive habit, ending your day or week by writing down what needs to happen the next time you start gets your subconscious mind aware of the next challenge to be faced.
  2. Reprioritization. The list you have has a number of first priorities, identifying them, and  using the 80/20 rule to identify what is the highest value for the effort. This is the first point in this week’s video.
  3. The choice. Select a single task that is among your highest priorities and has the most serious potential consequences from either getting it done or being left undone.
  4. Assembly. Still the day or week before, you’ll want to gather the information or tools you’ll need and put them where you can get started right away the next morning.
  5. Workspace. The final preparation piece beforehand, you clear your workspace so that it is only you and your frog.
  6. Discipline. This aspect is simply a willpower exercise, but if it is the first challenge of the day, your willpower hasn’t been depleted yet by distractions.
  7. 21 days. Tracy writes that if one will do these 7 steps every day for 21 straight days you will literally double your productivity in less than a month.

The way in which this chapter of the book ends is certainly motivating to me, and I hope it is to you too.

Develop the habit of doing the most difficult task first and you’ll never look back. You’ll become one of the most productive people of your generation.


So what frog are you going to eat?

Frog 1

Have you seen the video on this book? Click Here.

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Learning to be Heroes

You can define a society by the heroes it keeps. You can also define a person by the heroes he or she keeps. Who are your heroes? Who are you modeling yourself after?  -Jeff Olson The Slight Edge

As individuals strive to be what we are created to be there are different avenues to pursue. Specifically there are three pathways of learning: #1 Learning by study, #2 Learning by Doing and #3 Learning from a Mentor.

#1 Learning by Study (Book Smarts).

This is the kind of learning that we commonly think of. Books, CD’s, Seminars, all things that I am passionate about because of the power of learning that they have! As we invest our time listening to a positive audio, perhaps even while doing something else, our brain can process that learning. Also, like we talked about in a previous post, the small actions add up to big results. This principle works in all areas, Reading 10 pages a day and listening to 15-30 minutes of audio for information is a simple thing to do. It’s unfortunately easy not to do as well. But the results are tremendous over time! 10 pages a day turns into a book a Month. 1 hour of audio a day on a certain subject after a year means you are in the top 5% of the world educated on that subject. Simply because there is no better way to take in information than our eyes and ears, this method of Learning has been championed. Seminars bring in, hopefully, the third type of learning so we will move on to pathway #2.

#2 Learning by Doing (Street Smarts).

If you’ve ever started a new job you understand this process. Our minds function in such a way that after a time of learning by study, we have a pressure to apply what we learned. Try listening to an audio of a leader talking about the benefits of a good attitude and then you’ll be able to, as Cassie Birtles says “Catch a grump off guard with kindness.” This is a FUN way of learning too! It feels good to put into practice the values that one has in their heart. There comes a time when book learning reaches a tip-over point and that knowledge has to be put into practice.

As a valuable aside here, putting a new discipline or concept into practice means that you will fail. Yes. I said it, you will fail. And this is good! the opposite of success is not failure, the opposite of success is quitting. Failure offers an invaluable opportunity for learning.

If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.  -Thomas J. Watson

If you still don’t believe me on this one, think on this quote by Wayne Gretzky:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

At my current job in a restaurant, we mention certain promotions to each customer. I’ve found that only be doubling my failure rate (by talking to more customers) can I get a higher rate of results.

#3 Learning from a Mentor

There is a lot I could say about learning from a mentor, but Jeff Olson goes into this topic pretty heavily in The Slight Edge and is very concise.

Take a look at who your heroes are- write down a list and examine it. Ask yourself, “Can I become like them? Are these people doing the kinds of things that I aspire to do and living the kinds of lives that I aspire to live? Can they really help me become who I want to become? pg 151 in The Slight Edge

You are who you associate with most. Be very aware of the philosophy, values, income, and accomplishments of those that you hang out with the most.

You can read more about The Friends Effect on Clarity.fm

Success has a lot to do with the learning that takes place before the action actually happens.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. -Abe Lincoln

The Three types of Learning are all necessary to become what you aspire to accomplish. Book smarts and Street smarts are great, but they are catalyzed and accelerated by finding mentors and friends that spur you on.

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So God Made a Farmer

football american flag

Admit it, you watch the Superbowl more for the ads than anything else. I know, I know, the level of excellence in the two teams, striving to be the best in the country at running, tackling, passing, sacking and sweating is good too. Yet you enjoy the commercials more.

2011-02-08-superbowl

Why is that? It’s because companies spend millions for thirty seconds to make you FEEL a certain way.

You all remember the ad that stopped the Superbowl last year. Everyone stopped crunching Doritos when Paul Harvey started talking. They peered in over the kitchen counter, stopped arguing over who was the better team, and leaned in around the living room corner to see what was going on. You may have had the hair on the back of your neck stand up. A friend told me that his grandparent got teary eyed at the tribute to Farmers.

Why?

Why did everyone stop?

What was so different about that feeling that this Truck commercial built up inside of each person that they reacted so strongly?

I read an article the other day at http://www.thesocialleader.com/2014/01/are-you-an-american/ that said it very well.

Not every American can be a farmer. But every citizen can be an American — one who thinks independently, takes action when it is needed, and always takes a stand for the right.

You see, it wasn’t because that Ad was about farmers, it was because it spoke to the fiber of what we believe as Americans. It doesn’t have to be staying up all night with a newborn calf, it could be staying up late with a friend that is in need.

The idea that each person is responsible to do what they can. It’s the idea of entrepreneurship, of “If it’s to be, its up to me.”

The reason we think of Farmers as classic Americana flows from the hard determination that the Farmers of the 19th and early 20th century showed in all they did. Things have changed since the days of the Dustbowl and that independent action doesn’t always reside on the seat of a tractor or shoveling out a horse stall. There are men and women who innovate, who take initiative and accept responsibility.

The farms of a century ago didn’t purchase crop insurance, they trusted their Creator. Those of us today don’t need overbearing regulation from Washington, we need to wake up to those same emotions and actions that we were inspired by at the last Superbowl. We have to consciously make the choice to stand up, and step out.

No, it is not always easy to accept responsibility.

Yet are you really an American or do you just feel like it when Paul Harvey talks about heaving bales and clearing land?

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The Law of the Vital Few

There are those moments when things come together. When a pursuit is verified by something unrelated.Demille Book Cover

First Event, I just finished reading the Phenomenal book We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident: 12 Natural Laws of Freedom, Progress, and Success by Oliver DeMille. He makes the case in this book that even though most people talk a big game about changing the country and restoring freedom and prosperity to America, they are held back by not understanding the Laws that govern governments!

To truly set up a society where freedom can flourish, there must be a group of people that understand the fundamental natural Laws. The Founding Fathers of America were some of the best read on the classics of free-thinkers over the preceding 2500 years. They made the choice to understand the natural laws.

For those of us that desire to make an impact, this short book is a Must Read!

The Lodge

The Lodge

Second Event, I spent this past week, January 12-18, in Davis Oklahoma with TeenPact Leadership Schools at their Staff Training Event. There were about 130 youth there that have the opportunity this season to serve with the ministry of TeenPact. If you haven’t had a chance to check out TeenPact, their mission is to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberties, defend the Christian Faith, and engage the culture at a time in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things. The Christian camaraderie, worship with like-minded believers, deep conversations with others my own age, teaching from those who are rock-solid in their faith, the week was phenomenal. Events like that make me excited because I know there are others of my generation who are willing to be a light for Christ.

In talking with the Founder of TeenPact, Tim Echols, he shared with me his vision of having a group of individuals committed to excellence. Having a sort of brotherhood of those that are willing to hold each other accountable to high standards. To be, as he would put it, “William Wilberforces” of our generation. Wilberforce, of course, is the man who, with a group of others, brought the slave trade to an end in Great Britain. He also set his life towards reforming the terrible standard of living in 1700’s London.

The reason, all these things came together in my mind is because of the Law of the Vital Few, written about by DeMille. Here is an excerpt from the chapter:

We desperately need a certain type of citizen in our modern society, the kind of person who, like the American founding generations, gets out and gets actively involved in addressing the needs of our communities.

This is the true hope of our free nations: people who take initiative on their own without government, spreading philanthropy, building businesses, volunteering and serving, looking around to see what is needed and organizing people to improve our neighborhoods and towns.

I know that there is this sort of culture alive and well with the high-achieving youth of TeenPact, in LIFE leadership communities across the United States, and in pockets here and there. But those of us who understand that if change is to happen it is up to us must make it a priority to be the Vital Few.

From the book,

The American founding generation was led by just such individuals, and a new crop of leaders is desperately needed again in our day.

Screenshot 2014-01-23 23.18.01

If you are reading this, you are capable of being one of these leaders. And now is the time to take action.

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The one thing to do in 2014

readers-leaders

You’ve all heard the phrase,

All Leaders are Readers.

And this is true. If you’re hoping to lead, you need to be hungry to be grow. If you want to become more than the person you are now, then by definition you’ll need an outside source to draw from. Many people wonder what it would be like to meet great figures of history. But if you had a chance to go back and talk to them, don’t you think that they would sound a lot like the books that they wrote?

Refer back to the picture above, Newton said it best, “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

There are so many things that we could delve into in a discussion on reading. There have been a plethora of tips, pointers, strategies on reading available. Some are great! Some are less so. I have even spent a day in a speed reading course when I started my college studies. It was dubiously useful to say the least.

Here are three things that I think are vitally important to reading. Here they are, your mindset before, your activity while reading, and your remembrance after you’re done. 

These three ideas apply very well when you’re reading for a purpose as opposed to reading for enjoyment (Yes, people still do that). Reading simply for enjoyment can be valuable as well, because the classics and many solid novels of today deal with situations and issues and you can expand your horizons by reading great stories.

So what should you be thinking about as you get ready to read? Even when you’re reading fiction, you should be aware that you’re taking in information. Be active, recognize this, and read to gain knowledge. Why is this important? For one, that’s why the author wrote the book: to share his or her knowledge that they gained through experience or from other books. Another reason to gain knowledge is that our excellence glorifies our Creator. Refer to 2 Timothy 2:15:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

So if our goal is to gain knowledge from those who have the results we want, it logically follows that we must be controlling the books that we choose to read or highly trust those that recommend books to us. By integrating the knowledge you gain from a book into your life, you become more like the author. That is why it is an integral part of your mindset before reading to be actively controlling the selection of books that you’re choosing from.

download

So you’ve chosen a book, what’s next? Of course, grab a pen! *This does not apply to library books unless you use a notebook*  Your activity while reading is to have fun studying the book. Yes, have fun studying the book! With your pen in hand, you are in control. You decide what you learn when you have the pen. Why is that? When you have a pen and use it in a book, the things that you underline, star, write a note in the margin on, or summarize stick with you. Here’s why it’s fun, You can argue with the author this way! You can figure out their thought process as they put the book together.

As a side note, you do not need to finish a book if you realize you don’t want that author’s thinking in your brain. I remember reading a novel when I was about 12, about halfway through I realized that I didn’t need to be reading that book, but I finished it anyway. That story is stuck in my brain forever now when I could have spent that time reading something wholesome. Life is too short to read junk.

Your remembrance of a book  after finishing is directly related to activity while reading. If you take the time to write down an idea after each chapter, and when finished go back through and read your underlined sections and the main ideas of the book you will remember much better. If you have a collection of books, it is also very helpful to categorize books for future reference. A lesson you’ve learned from a book can be as comforting as a good friend and you don’t want to forget where you stashed your friends!

If you do one thing this new year, take the time to actively read. If you don’t learn from others, what you’re really doing is saying “I have arrived, I know all that I need.”  Where to start? Remember, as you read a book you become more like what the author intends. Why not read a book from Someone who is perfect, actively read the Bible this new year and you’ll become more and more like what that Author intends you to be.

Happy New Year 2014

Part of this post was drawn from a video by a great author I respect, Chris Brady. Check his blog out at http://chrisbrady.typepad.com/

If you want some specifics on active reading, here’s a great one-page resource from Illinois Wesleyan University: http://www.iwu.edu/advising/students/reading_underlining.pdf

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