Malcolm Gladwell Experiment

Feel free to keep batting around ideas in the comments about where to find good deals on prescription drugs (as well as to address the question I asked at the end of the last post), but in the meantime I’ve decided to put up another post:

Here is an interesting story about a 31 year-old guy (Dan) who quit his job 1 year ago in order to spend 10,000 hours practicing golf (which he’d never played before) in order to test Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours is the “magic number of greatness,” i.e. that, as Wikipedia puts it, “the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” Dan has set out to determine whether he can get into the pros by devoting 10,000 hours of his life to golf.

My hypothesis, having not read any of Gladwell’s books in a long time, is that he did not play sports very seriously as a child. If he did, he’d basically have already performed the experiment that Dan is in the midst of performing in order to test Gladwell’s theory. I performed an abbreviated version of the experiment with tennis. I probably spent closer to 3,000 hours than 10,000 hours practicing (about 10 years, 300 hours/year), and that did not even get me into the top 10 people at my high school, which was clearly not 3/10ths of the way to the pros. There was one guy on my high school team who probably spent an average of 50 hours/year practicing tennis, and he didn’t even have tennis shoes that tied properly, but I was always happy to have him as a doubles partner, since he was simply a natural.

The annoying thing about disagreeing with Malcolm Gladwell is that his theories are so inconvenient to disprove (for those who are not convinced by childhood sports experiments). So thanks to Dan for doing the hard work. Maybe the recent exposes showing that Greg Mortenson is a fraud, combined with the forthcoming (in 5 years or so) demonstration that Gladwell is wrong about a lot of what he says, will scare future book writers into refraining from lies and exaggeration, even if their claims can only be disproved by someone willing to travel to mountain villages in Pakistan, or to take a 6 year break from his career to practice golf.

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