According to Malcom Gladwell, it is mostly the latter. In fact he believes that to be really good at "anything," ten years of practice are a minimum. Also, the inspiration and the perspiration must come not just from the prospective genius' own brain and pores but from his/ her family, friends, school and community. In other words, it does take a village to jump start a genius. For example, Gladwell takes great umbrage at the Bush brothers, George W. and Jeb, born to wealth and privilege (sons and grandsons a senator and a president) blithely identifying as "self made" men.
While they are the essential ingredients for success, according to Gladwell, talent, hard work and dedication are not quite enough. Going by the reviews and Gladwell's own interviews about his new book, Outliers (which I have not read), the author argues that who among the talented set becomes a successful genius, depends also to a large extent on luck. No matter how good one is at one's true calling or how hard and long the labor of love, nothing succeeds like "luck" and that Gladwell points out, is often determined by the time of one's birth. No, not in the astrological sense, but whether civilization is ready for a certain type of genius at a particular point in history. Like everything else that Gladwell has written, this premise too sounds interesting and compelling for the most part mainly because the author fits the figures with his theory. There is little to argue about as long as one picks examples that follow Gladwell's pattern and packaging of the lucky genius. Jerry Adler, the Newsweek reviewer wonders however about geniuses like Einstein and Shakespeare whose name and fame cannot easily be explained by their being perfect fits with the prevailing zeitgeist of their times. Actually, human thinking would be a stagnant, slow moving pool if all conspicuous works of genius were mere reinforcements (or minor tweakings) of prior knowledge and existing cultural mores. Otherwise we would never have heard of Darwin, Copernicus (Galileo), Lincoln, Marx, Jesus or Buddha. They too were outliers, perhaps the more notable ones.
Life is unfair, as even the bible acknowledges ("Unto every one that hath shall be given … "). We can't all hit a baseball like DiMaggio or sing like the Beatles. But how much do we understand about those who can? Not enough, says Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book, "Outliers: The Story of Success." We attribute the Beatles' fabulous success to being, well, the Beatles, four cute boys who happened to possess amazing musical talents. Gladwell has a different explanation. The Beatles, he says, lucked into a gig at a strip club in Germany where they had to play as long as eight hours a night, in styles ranging from bubblegum pop to hard-driving blues—making them possibly the best-rehearsed band in the world when they answered the call of the Ed Sullivan show. We can't all be like the Beatles, but neither could John, Paul, George and Ringo, if their experiences had been different. As a determinant of success, talent is overrated, compared to, among other things, luck.....
"Outliers" opens with a typically Gladwellian puzzle: why are so many professional hockey players born early in the year? It turns out that Canadian youth leagues group players by age, based on a calendar year, so a player born in January will be the oldest on his team, enjoying a big difference in size and maturity. The early birds get more playing time and coaching, advantages that become self-reinforcing, spelling the difference between an NHL career and a job as a high-school coach. Life is unfair.