I interviewed one of the most powerful lawyers in the world and he told me, "At the time, it was the worst thing in the world not to be able to get a job at a fancy law firm, but it's the greatest thing that ever happened in my life." It was a humble acknowledgment of how forces much larger than himself shaped his career. I really wanted to bring that point home.
The first person who throws the rock is a lot more radical than a hundredth person.By the time the riot has attracted a hundred people, you don't have to be nearly as much of a daredevil or a hothead or committed or any of those things to want to engage in a riot.
Innovators have to be open. They have to be able to imagine things that others cannot and be willing to challenge their own preconceptions. They also need to be conscientious. An innovator who has brilliant ideas but lacks the discipline and persistence to carry them out is merely a dreamer ... But crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable ... They are people willing to take social risks-to do things that others might disapprove of.
If we think about emotion this way - as outside-in, not inside out - it is possible to understand how some people can have an enormous amount of influence over others. Some of us, after all, are very good at expressiing emotions and feelings, which means that we are far more emotionally contagious than the rest of us.
When the students were asked to identify their race on a pretest questionnaire, that simple act was sufficient to prime them with all the negative stereotypes associated with African Americans and academic achievement—and If a white student from a prestigious private high school gets a higher SAT score than a black student from an inner-city school, is it because she’s truly a better student, or is it because to be white and to attend a prestigious high school is to be constantly primed with the idea of “smart”?
Shortly after the birth control pill was approved for public distribution, one woman wrote to John Rock, its inventor, "You should be afraid to meet your maker." Rock, despite being Catholic replied, "My dear Madam, in my faith, we are taught that the Lord is with us always. When my time comes, there will be no need for introductions."
The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?
Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
The conventional explanation for Jewish success, of course, is that Jews come from a literate, intellectual culture. They are famously "the people of the book." There is surely something to that. But it wasn't just the children of rabbis who went to law school. It was the children of garment workers. And their critical advantage in climbing the professional ladder wasn't the intellectual rigor you get from studying the Talmud. It was the practical intelligence and savvy you get from watching your father sell aprons on Hester Street.