Can I have a detailed summary of Part 1 Chapter 2 of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? 

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked for a detailed summary of Part 1 Chapter 2 of the book 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. The title of this extraordinary chapter is 'The 10 000 Hour Rule.'

The chapter starts out with an introduction to Bill Joy. He is sixteen when he becomes a student at the University of Michigan. That year, the Computer Center makes its debut on campus and Joy devotes all his time and energy to computer programming. He rewrites two programming languages: Unix and Java. He is also responsible for much of the software that allows all of us to access the Internet. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, he becomes one of the co-founders for Sun Microsystems. The author hypothesizes that success in the world of computers is dependent on ability/talent, opportunity and accomplishments. He goes on to develop the idea that it is the special advantage that opportunity offers which allows individuals like Bill Joy to cultivate extraordinary expertise. Opportunity is made possible through parental involvement, specific programs and financial support. The University of Michigan was one of the first universities in the world to pioneer computer programming on a time-share basis: this meant that computers can effectively handle many tasks at the same time, something they were not able to do before the mid-1960's. Bill Joy was in the right place at the right time, and the college had the finances to keep the Computer Center open 24 hours a day. Bill Joy was able to put in his ten thousand hours.

The author cites the example of the research done by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson at the prestigious Academy of Music in Berlin. Ericsson and his two colleagues divide the school's violinists into three groups: top soloists, good performers and mediocre musicians. They found that the elite soloists had each totaled ten thousand hours of solid practice by the age of twenty. None of the musicians succeeded on talent alone; all were equally good in their craft when they started, but the top soloists achieved eventual mastery due to terrific hours of hard work above and beyond that of the other two groups. The psychologists conclude that it somehow takes the brain ten thousand hours of hard practice (or ten years) to achieve true mastery. They also cite the similar examples of Mozart (composer), Bobby Fischer (chess grandmaster) and the Canadian/Czech professional sports teams. The author tells us that practice isn't something we do once we are experts: it is the ultimate and only path to mastery.

The author also points out the example of the Beatles. It isn't until after the band plays in the strip clubs of Hamburg, Germany that the world comes to worship the Beatles. The band put in incredible hours: in Hamburg, they were required to play seven days a week for eight, straight hours every day. They achieved stamina, learned discipline and memorized copious amounts of music.

Bill Gates also had the advantage opportunity offered: his parents were able to send him to a private school for the elite. The Mother's Club at the school was able to purchase a time-share terminal and pay the computer fees for the students. Gates himself was able to program for many thousands of hours due to opportunities at ISI and C-Cubed courtesy of his connections. He also lived within walking distance of the University of Washington, which had free computer hours between three and six in the morning.

The author tells us that it is the advantage opportunity presents which enables the honing of mastery. Whether one is born within the time-frame of the industrial manufacturing boom (fourteen of the seventy-five richest people in human history were born in the mid-nineteen century) or within the time frame of the computer revolution of the 1970's (all the technology giants were born in the mid 1950's), the role that opportunity plays in success is unquestionable.

Hope this is helpful. If you haven't read this chapter, I highly encourage you to do so. It is excellent and you won't regret it. If you have read it, well done!

Read the study guide:
Outliers: The Story of Success

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