Malcolm Gladwell at the 2011 New Yorker Festival
This is the 3rd piece in my series on the New Yorker Festival. For the 1st, entitled The Writer's Writer in Our Midst, click Jhumpa Lahiri, Jeffrey Eugenides and Nicole Krauss. For an interview with Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections, click his name.
The 10,000 Hour Route
In 1984 a young man from Elmira, Ontario (pop. 12,000) named Malcolm Gladwell manages to graduate from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He doesn’t have strong enough grades to get into graduate school so opts for advertising only to have every agency he applies to reject him. He winds up, out of either desperation or necessity, doing journalism in Indiana, of all places. It serves him well, apparently. Three years later he’s in D.C., where he spends the next 10 years writing about science and business for The Washington Post. According to a 2008 Time magazine piece, in which the best-selling non-fiction author cited the 10,000 hour (equivalent to 10 years) rule of success that he made famous in his third straight international bestseller, Outliers, “I was a basket case at the beginning, and I felt like an expert at the end. It took 10 years — exactly that long.’”
10,000 hours = $40,000 for about 60 minutes of work
Ten years for Gladwell to, in 1996, become a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine where he has remained ever since and won a National Magazine Award along the way, for articles, the best of which were collected in Gladwell’s most recent work What the Dog Saw. In 2005 Time Magazine included him as one of the world’s most influential people. Goes to show for a writer whose first two books (The Tipping Point and Blink) alone have sold nearly four million copies putting both in the top ten best-selling non-fiction of the last decade.
His New Yorker Festival talk last Sunday should provide a strong example of the powerful way in which Gladwell’s books and New Yorker articles (and talks that supposedly demand $40,000 a pop) can both edify and appeal to the business and political crowd at the same time as they speak to the child in us that simply wants to curl up by the fire to hear a good (grownup) story.
Which is how Gladwell will start – with a story. He almost always does. First though, a question, a reminder, a hint to let us know there’s more to come, including a potential explanation for the debt crisis in Greece:
Why do people in positions of weakness choose to rebel?