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Manny Being Manny | Some ‘Gladwellian’ Insight

This is Manny. Manny Ramirez.

Manny RamirezBelieve it or not, Manny is one of the greatest right handed hitters in Baseball history. He is also a 2 time World Series Champion and 1 time World Series MVP. Manny was also recently suspended from baseball for 50 games for violating the league’s Substance Abuse Policy when he tested positive for a substance used to hide performance enhancing drug use.

In other words, he cheated. And yet, he is adored and loved, cheered and ballyhooed. Why?

You don’t need to be a baseball fan to continue reading.

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Another Gladwell Gem | How David Beats Goliath

I cannot get enough Malcolm Gladwell.

Every time I read his work I walk away impressed, enriched and thirsting for more.

Previously I blogged about his book Outliers, which was super. Today I am writing about a recent Gladwell column in the New Yorker. I don’t subscribe to the New Yorker but periodically I check it our online. This week I had the pleasure of enjoying yet another Gladwell gem.

This time Gladwell is talking about sports and for me it is a lesson about life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Genius: The Modern View and the Torah View

The most emailed column on NYTimes.com today is this column on genius. In this Op-Ed column, from David Brooks the old question of nature vs. nurture is raised.

Are there people born with elevated talents and skill or are some people the lucky ones who were in the right place at the right time and were nurtured into their high level abilities?

I am not sure what compelled Mr. Brooks to write this column, it seems random and disconnected from today’s news.
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Outliers: Section 1 (and my grandfather)

So I began reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell this weekend. I finished the first section and have an opinion about it. The book’s basic premise is that success is a conglomeration of a lot of factors. Some factors are innate, some factors and communal and some factors are just plain luck.

I think a lot of what he says is compelling, in fact I made such an observation a few years ago. In the wake of my grandfather’s death (whose name was Sidney Greenwald) a few years ago much was said about his impact on the world. He touched so many people in so many different ways. He was a builder for so many Jewish institutions and causes. He accomplished so much and anyone who knew him would tell you this.

I always felt that his success was due to his great skill and ability but had a lot to do with the time and place in which he found himself. At that time, mid-20th century, Orthodox Judaism was beginning its renaissance and resurgence in America. It was a time that was perfect for someone with his abilities to shine. He certainly took advantage of his opportunities and made the most of them. But those opportunities do not present themselves to anyone and everyone.

I think people are able to accomplish a great deal with their talents and abilities. The opportunities need to present themselves to make it happen. Sometimes we can create the opportunities and other times we can look opportunities. But many times we just have to wait for the opportunities and be ready to pounce those opportunities when they present themselves.

So I guess I must agree with Gladwell on that point. Timing does make a big difference. The part that I had a harder time digesting was the suggestion that we are all victims of early tracking with no hope to escape the reputation we build for ourselves. Education in this country is suffering but the opportunities for a student who wants to succeed are endless. We suffer more from lack of caring and effort than the tracking in our education system. There are some victims of the tracking but most are victims of their own lack of interest in learning and bad teaching than anything else. The danger of Gladwell’s idea is that it gives excuses to people who are not productive. People don’t need more excuses to do nothing…

I am looking forward to finishing the book soon.

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Malcolm Gladwell and “Perfection”

In a twist of fate I was sent this link by PJC member Judd Magilnick.

Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer and has had a great influence on my thinking. Perhaps the greatest secular influence on me of all! I have not yet had a chance to read his new book “Outliers” however I have read this NY Times OP-ED piece.

I am not necessarily agreeing with the writer’s assessment of Gladwell’s position rather I am commenting on the writer’s position in relationship to “Perfection”.

The astute will notice that this is exactly the point we made in our “Perfections” discussion. Success in not predetermined, it is our hands and our task to be vigilantly improving ourselves. Of course there are elements that are outside of our control such as location of birth, IQ, default personality traits etc. but none of those can stand in the face of our will to succeed!

I guess Malcolm Gladwell (in the writer’s view) and Rabbi Akiva will have to just agree to disagree…

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