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Outliers - 10,000 hours of work

In his new book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell looks at the reasons for success. Aside from luck - going to a private school with a terrific computer in the case of Bill Gates - and genius, Gladwell thinks every successful person puts in at least 10,000 hours of hard work.

He writes about the Beatles, "By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don't perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers." But something else was going on, too.

The other day in a post on Liverpool we noted that there were more than 300 Merseyside bands performing at the same time as the Beatles. Liverpool seems to have been a musical petrie dish on an enormous scale. The creativity, energy and competitiveness of all those bands must have been inspiring. (But no wonder the Beatles had to look for gigs in Hamburg.)

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John Constable in 1799

Another outlier, painter John Constable had to work for years before he had any success. Even the grandfather of the woman he wanted to marry dismissed his early attempts.

Constable was lucky to have parents whose business in the country supported his London studies, but he created tens of thousands of sketches and hundreds of paintings before he had any professional recognition - and only after he had made a daring artistic leap.

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The Science Timeline seems to consist almost entirely of outliers.

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