Malcolm Gladwell: Prodigies and Late Bloomers

Paul Cezanne - Self Portrait

Malcolm Gladwell’s new article in The New Yorker, “Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?,” tackles the misconceptions of the late bloomer and how one differs from a prodigy. Using Cézanne and Picasso as examples of each, respectively, Gladwell explores the marked difference between them:

“On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.”

In the article, Gladwell also studies the “overnight” literary successes of authors Ben Fountain and Jonathan Safran Foer. This article seems to tie-in with Gladwell’s new book, “Outliers: The Story of Success.” The Gladwell pastiche is well established: take a complex phenomenon and make it accessible by illustrating it with a series of bite-sized human-interest profiles. It’s a straightforward approach that works because of Gladwell’s fluid engaging style.


Malcolm Gladwell’s New Book “Outliers” in November

I thoroughly enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s first book, “Tipping Point.” After reading it, I spent weeks classifying all of my friends as “mavens, connectors, and salesmen.” I suppose I would be a maven, not so much a connector, and definitely not a salesman. “Blink” was less compelling, although it did validate my habit of making snap decisions and moving on.

Malcolm Gladwell’s third book, “Outliers,” will be released this November. This time around he tackles the phenomenon of Success from a typical Gladwellian premise: “that the way we think about success is all wrong.”

According to the 800-CEO-READ blog, “along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.” (Correction:  the above quote is from the Little, Brown and Company publisher’s catalog.  Thanks, Dylan.)

Asians are good at math? I must not have gotten the memo (nor the genes.)

While I won’t pre-order it, I think I will put it on my Christmas Wist List.