If there is one thing I learned by reading Epstein's "The Sports Gene" it is that world-class athletes are, by definition, abnormal: that is, the kind of person capable of competing at that level is necessarily very different from the rest of us physiologically. They are outliers.
Character isn't what we think it is or, rather, what we want it to be. It isn't a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits, and it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brains are organized. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context.
In order to get one of the greatest inventions of the modern age, in other words, we thought we needed the solitary genius. But if Alexander Graham Bell had fallen into the Grand River and drowned that day back in Brantford, the world would still have had the telephone, the only difference being that the telephone company would have been nicknamed Ma Gray, not Ma Bell.
A fan is always an outsider. Most sportswriters are not, by this definition, fans. They capitalize on access to athletes. They spoke to Kobe last night, and Kobe says his finger is going to be fine. They spent three days fly-fishing with Brett Favre in March, and Brett says he's definitely coming back for another season.
The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.
Take a random group of 8-year-old American and Japanese kids, give them all a really, really hard math problem, and start a stopwatch. The American kids will give up after 30, 40 seconds. If you let the test run for 15 minutes, the Japanese kids will not have given up. You have to take it away.
Nothing frustrates me more than someone who reads something of mine or anyone else's and says, angrily, 'I don't buy it.' Why are they angry? Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else's head—even if in the end you conclude that someone else's head is not a place you'd really like to be.
The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up.
The entire principle of a blind taste test was ridiculous. They shouldn't have cared so much that they were losing blind taste tests with old Coke, and we shouldn't at all be surprised that Pepsi's dominance in blind taste tests never translated to much in the real world. Why not? Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind.
The biggest mistake we make is trying to square the way we feel about something today with the way we felt about it yesterday. You shouldn’t even bother doing it. You should just figure out the way you feel today and if it happens to comply with what you thought before, fine. If it contradicts it, whatever. Life goes on.
There is this tremendous body of knowledge in the world of academia where extraordinary numbers of incredibly thoughtful people have taken the time to examine on a really profound level the way we live our lives and who we are and where we've been. That brilliant learning sometimes gets trapped in academia and never sees the light of day.
People at CDC [Centers for Disease Control] who cut their teeth on diseases over the last 10 years have started to think of crime as another disease, and using some of these same concepts. It was something that was in the air in that world, but it was time to bust it out and apply it to any number of different social epidemics.
Anyone who has ever scanned the bookshelves of a new girlfriend or boyfriend- or peeked inside his or her medicine cabinet- understands this implicitly; you can learn as much - or more - from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face.
The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Crime didn't keep soaring in the 1990s, money alone doesn't win elections, and - surprise - drinking eight glasses of water a day has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health. Conventional wisdom is often shoddily formed and devilishly difficult to see through, but it can be done.
We spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out who's going to be a good NFL quarterback, and we do a very bad job of it. We don't really know. And we also spend a lot of time trying to figure out who will be a good teacher, and we're really bad at that too. We don't know if someone is going to be a good teacher when they start teaching. So what should we do in those situations in which predictions are useless?
If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.
Economists often talk about the 80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the “work” will be done by 20 percent of the participants. In most societies, 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes. Twenty percent of motorists cause 80 percent of all accidents. Twenty percent of beer drinkers drink 80 percent of all beer. When it comes to epidemics, though, this disproportionality becomes even more extreme: a tiny percentage of people do the majority of the work.
Those with health insurance are overinsured and their behavior is distorted by moral hazard. Those without health insurance use their own money to make decisions based on an assessment of “their needs. The insured are wasteful. The uninsured are prudent. So what's the solution? Make the insured a little more like the uninsured.