World renowned success guru reveals what real talent is
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-04-26

World renowned success guru Malcolm Gladwell is the author of several bestsellers. Among these bestsellers are The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers which is the current conversation piece of the corporate world.

Recently, Gladwell was a featured guest on GPS, Fareed Zakaria’s weekly show on CNN. Gladwell underscored during the interview that talent is not the ability you are born with but the ability you develop to want to practice. To illustrate his point, Gladwell, cited the example of the legendary Beatles.

Following is an abbreviated transcript of Malcolm Gladwell’s interview with Fareed Zakaria.

“ZAKARIA: Tell the story of the Beatles with regard to practice.

GLADWELL: The Beatles are a lovely example, because we think that their story begins with the invasion of America in 1964. Right? These four, fresh-faced, practically teenagers who burst on the scene.

You know, nothing could be farther from the truth. They spend the really critical periods — they spend two years in Hamburg, Germany, as the house band in a strip club playing eight-hour sets, seven days a week, for months at a stretch.

They have one of the most extraordinarily intensive apprenticeships in rock ‘n’ roll. And if you think about what it takes to play — I mean, the typical set for a rock band is what, an hour, an hour-and-a-half. They did eight-hour sets, day in, day out.

If you think about that, you realize that if you force a group of young musicians to play together in that way for months at a stretch — you’re forcing them to master all kinds of different genres, to learn how to play together well, to write songs.

I mean, everything you need to do, particularly at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll, to be the most dominant band of your generation requires some kind of apprenticeship. And lo and behold, they have it.

And I would argue, and many agree with me, that no Hamburg, no Beatles. You know, they’re just not the band that we remember unless they had that kind of intensive training.

ZAKARIA: But of course, it raises an interesting question to me, which is, you could imagine a lot of other bands being told, “I’ve got good news for you. You’ve got a great gig in Hamburg, Germany. The bad news is you’re going to have to play eight hours a day, seven days a week.” And they would have said, ‘No way. We’re not going to do it.’

So, something about that group made them relish the opportunity.


ZAKARIA: That is, yes, it takes practice. But you need a certain mentality to want to practice.

GLADWELL: What you have described is what I believe talent is.

Talent is the desire to practice. Right? It is that you love something so much that you are willing to make an enormous sacrifice and an enormous commitment to that, whatever it is – task, game, sport, what have you.” (End of interview)

What Malcolm Gladwell said on CNN’s GPS was really nothing new. Didn’t our parents and teachers teach us that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration? Gladwell simply provided deeper insights and dimensions to that old lesson.

Indeed, how many times have we seen people remark “What a waste of talent, such brilliance and education that amounted to nothing” when describing those who failed to measure up to what were expected of them.

How many of those who were rated by their peers in a High School graduating class yearbook as the “Most likely to succeed” ended up as underachievers if not dismal failures? How many of those who were not even rated in the same graduating class ended up as spectacular successes in their chosen fields? If you scrutinize what determined success and failure, you will likely discover Gladwell’s redefinition of talent as the reason for the success.

The “pwede na yan” (“that will do”) mentality of some Filipinos accounts for the lack of achievement among those who have been given the opportunity to improve their lot. The attitude betrays a lack of desire to excel — opposite the attitude one notices among the Chinese and Japanese. Seen from a larger perspective, we can say that our “pwede na yan” mentality also underscores why Filipino products cannot compete with Chinese products even if the other givens, save for a drive for excellence, are the same.

Our “pwede na yan” mentality not only reveals a lack of desire to excel but it also shows a character flaw – that of a tendency to shortchange the customer if it can be done. A healthy mentality will strive to finds ways to best serve the customer. It is deceitful and can even be considered predatory to deliver to a customer an inferior product or service.

The “pwede na yan” mentality starts to be developed early on in life. When parents shower a young piano player with undeserved praise even if three of every five notes are being missed — that breeds and encourages the “pwede na yan” mentality.

You will also find “pwede na yan” at the very core of the mindset of our biggest plunderers and deceitful leaders. When the actual road length and road quality we get is only the equivalent of 50% of the price we taxpayers are paying for it, that is the plunderer saying “pwede na yan” for the Filipino people.

When the election cheaters manipulate results and proclaim as winner the candidate who only received the second highest number of votes instead of the one with most number of votes — that is saying “pwede na yan” for the Filipino voters.

When we allow corrupt cops to connive with corrupt prosecutors and corrupt judges to convict the innocent and allow the guilty to go Scot-free, that is saying “pwede na yan” for Philippine Justice.

In February 25, 1986, we became the toast of the world when we staged the People Power Revolution in EDSA. We set the bar for the struggle to remove tyrannies via active non-violent means of People Power.

Alas, 23 years later, we have become a great global embarrassment as we showcase these days the most glaring example of a failure of democracy. Other nationals wonder how the Filipino people can tolerate what is now happening in their country — the plunder, the lying, the impunity and the crass obsession with power.

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