According to "The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1" in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, what is more relevant to high success and notoriety than intelligence?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 3 titled "The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1" of his book Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell uses Christopher Langan as the primary example to show that there is a limited relationship between high IQ and success. Langon has an IQ that's even higher than Einstein's, with Einstein's being 130 and Langan's being 195. Yet, from a traditional standpoint, Langan cannot be seen as very successful because he does not have a college degree, has not published any work, and has not made a profound impact on the world of academics. In contrast, Einstein made profound, long-lasting contributions to physics and won the Nobel Prize in 1921. Gladwell asks, if Langan's IQ is so much substantially higher than Einstein's, then why has Langan's success rate also been so substantially lower?

Gladwell's answer is that "intelligence has a threshold." To illustrate his point, he demonstrates that professional basketball players need to be at least between 6 feet and 6 feet 3 inches tall to play well; however, past that point, extra height does not matter. Someone who is only 6 feet 6 inches tall, like Michael Jordan, can become the best player in the world as opposed to someone who is 6 feet 8 inches. The same holds true for intelligence; one only needs to be intelligent enough to be successful. After that point, additional intelligence does not matter and does not equate to additional success.

Instead of intelligence mattering, Gladwell argues that being able to think creatively and innovatively will equate to more success. The same can be seen as true for notorious people as opposed to just successful people. Those who become notorious usually think the most outside of the box; they think creatively and innovatively in ways that nobody likes. Hence, the ability to think creatively and innovatively are far more important than intelligence alone. In addition, working 10,000 hours on any talent is the only way to become successful using that talent.

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Outliers: The Story of Success

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