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Success Not Just a Matter of Talent

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the ninety-nine-percent-something-something dept.

Businesses 247

NinjaCoder writes "The Guardian has an interesting article based on a new book (Outliers: The Story Of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell) which examines some persons of interest to computer technology (Bill Joy, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, amongst others). It examines reasons for their successes and strongly suggests a link between practice (10,000 hours by age 20 being the magic milestone) and luck. This maybe an obvious truism, but the article does give interesting anecdotes on how their personal circumstances led to today's technological landscape. It points out that many of the luminaries of the current tech industry were born around 1955, and thus able to take advantage of the emerging technologies.

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247 comments

fp is a talent! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771159)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Re:fp is a talent! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771373)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the Apple store, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Steve Jobs came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as I noticed that he didn't wash his hands. He didn't glanced at me with a queer, mischievous grin before he walked out the door. As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens plus the soggy corpse of a gerbil and a stained, inoperable iPhone floated in the bowl. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it! I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a casual Apple user and had admired Steve Jobs since the unveiling of the original iPod. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, and I knew that I had a chance since I have AIDS and he does too! Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Steve Jobs...

Duh! (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771175)

No shit. Turn on your favorite pop radio station and you have your thesis. Collect grant, profit.

And the Winning Talent is....... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771179)

.... Marketing.

Re:And the Winning Talent is....... (3, Informative)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771343)

There was much more than marketing involved in the success that Microsoft had until this day.

It involved lies, false promises (yellow road to Cairo), lobbying for antisocial laws (DMCA), lock-in practices(WMV, MS Office files), FUD(agreement with Novell about patents), embrace, extend and extinguish and bying into the stock of competitors.

Apples success so far came from delivering a better product...

Re:And the Winning Talent is....... (0, Flamebait)

Nishal (636649) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771375)

better product? that must explain the overwhelming market share held by apple, and the competetive pricing they use, and the non propritery stuff too... oh wait

Re:And the Winning Talent is....... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771665)

better != majority
better != cheaper
better != non-proprietary

It's better because it just fucking works. No auto-running viruses/trojans problems, no fucking around with libraries and dependencies.

Re:And the Winning Talent is....... (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771853)

Are you telling me you've always voted for the winning candidate in a presidential race? Because if you haven't you obviously don't think that the majority is always right...

Re:And the Winning Talent is....... (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771359)

I did not read this article, but another profile on Gladwell and this book. The winning talent actually seems to be a lack of interest in yourself.

I'm writing my own book (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771185)

And most of my profiles are on people born around 1980, able to take advantage of the emerging internet technology.

Another Gladwell masterpiece! (5, Insightful)

stinkbomb (238228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771209)

This Gladwell character has quite the literary scam going:
  1. Take an obvious and ancient truism.
  2. Write 200-300 pages of anecdotes related to it.
  3. Profit!

I heard his next book is going to be an analysis of the power of hand-washing to prevent disease!

Re:Another Gladwell masterpiece! (2, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771403)

Before someone mods you troll I would like to point out that this is exactly the stimulus that 'people of faith' the world over seek every time they enter a place of worship.

Gladwell is utilizing a proven tool (rehashing the familiar) to get people thinking...

Re:Another Gladwell masterpiece! (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771971)

Gladwell is utilizing a proven tool (rehashing the familiar) to get people thinking...

It only gets people thinking, in the sense that they are thinking along the lines you have outlined.

And anyone who knows about debate will tell you that framing a discussion in your terms is a great way to neutralize anyone's ability to respond. "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" is the simplest form of that type of debate-fu.

Fostering independent thought and inquisitive minds is not something that is done through rehashing the familiar or repetition.

it must be graft (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771225)

The only internal thing about extreme skill is that someone is so interested in something that they would spend many hours on something and still be interested in it.
When I was a kid 7-8 to 10 years of age I loved to copy cartoons. I spent many hours doing this for no reason other than love of it. When ever I was in art class I also seemed to be one of the best, the student the teacher always had the most respect for. I got an A at GCSE level (16 years of age), without even trying. Seeing as I never drew after the age of 10 in my own time this skill must have come from when I was young.

insightful revelation (5, Funny)

spune (715782) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771237)

Who would have guessed that individual circumstances play an important role in success? It certainly had never occurred to me that who you know matters more than what you know.

Success is being in the right place at the right t (5, Insightful)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771243)

Success is being in the right place at the right time. That's 50% of it. The remaining 50% are 30% hard work and 20% talent. The point being, unless you're in the right place at the right time and you see the opportunity, your hard work and talent are unlikely to pay off.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771377)

That depends on how you define success...

If you define it as being a CEO of Top XXX or earning millions per year, or being known by many thousands of people, ya that's probably the case.

Even launching a terrorist attack as a result that the attacker to be known by the public takes a whole lot of luck.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (4, Insightful)

kz45 (175825) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771381)

"Success is being in the right place at the right time. That's 50% of it. The remaining 50% are 30% hard work and 20% talent. The point being, unless you're in the right place at the right time and you see the opportunity, your hard work and talent are unlikely to pay off."

This is the excuse I have heard from un-successful people that don't want to put the time and effort that it takes to actually be successful.

We have potential opportunities that pass by us every day. Without the proper knowledge or experience, these opportunities will just continue to pass by.

I would say it's more along the lines of 10% finding the opportunity (right place, right time) and 90% knowing what do do when you get it (talent and experience)

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

Kent Recal (714863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771451)

You forgot the other 70%: Looking good [subt1.net] .

This is the excuse I heard (4, Insightful)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771529)

This is the excuse I heard from unsuccessful people who think they can be successful just by putting in the time and effort.

Truth is, if you're doing something on your own, being timing is crucial. eBay was in the right place at the right time. They weren't particularly talented and now you can't do another eBay. Same with PayPal. Same with Google. Same with Yahoo. Same with just about any truly successful company out there. Perhaps the most vivid example of this is early Microsoft. Their success was built on the software they didn't even write.

No matter how much time and effort you put in today, you will not replicate the success of those companies in their respective niches. Solely because you're not in the right place at the right time.

Re:This is the excuse I heard (3, Insightful)

Kirkoff (143587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771759)

I'm not sure that Google is a great example of good timing. There were already several players in the search engine space when they started. They just did it better. That's intelligence and the hard work to release it (even if it was a PhD project).

 

Re:This is the excuse I heard (1)

mordenkhai (1167617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771795)

I think a big part of Google's 'timing' was their seizure of the opportunity to embrace web based ads far better than Yahoo or anyone else. This gives them the $$$ to do all those wonderful things they do now. Just a guess though, I've never really looked into other companies attempts at the Google ad business.

Re:This is the excuse I heard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25772019)

You would not replicate the success of THOSE companies, but what about the thousands or millions of ideas for which the right place and time is right now?

Every person is not limited to doing just one thing successfully and being screwed if he never notices the exact moment when it's opportunity happens. With talent and effort you can always find an idea for a company for which timing is perfect right now.

The time for online auctions, search or desktop software might be over, but then don't start a company doing that! Figure out (or guess and try your luck) what will be hot in the next 3 years and start working on it.

Re:This is the excuse I heard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25772039)

Same with Slashdot.

Oops -- there goes my karma...

Re:This is the excuse I heard (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772105)

No matter how much time and effort you put in today, you will not replicate the success of those companies in their respective niches. Solely because you're not in the right place at the right time.

It should be pointed out that being "successful" and being a billionaire are two different things. Even if you were not at the "magic moment", there's still ways to become well-to-do.

For example, the next fledging microcomputer-like or internet-like opportunity might be right under our nose (say, solar cells). If you merely invest in the right players, you could still get quite wealthy.
   

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771705)

So blacks, women, and people under the age of 40 just aren't working hard enough? Because those are the people that are most likely to be making less than average wages, more likely to be working without benefits, etc. You call it an excuse, but for people who have poured their heart and soul into their work year after year and realized nothing from it, they call it prejudice. And it's just self-serving crap for you to say that "proper knowledge or experience" is the only pathway to opportunity when every day on the news we read about Haliburton and kickbacks, slush funds, and back room deals.

Intelligence is a bell curve, but almost 80% of the wealth in this country is concentrated amongst 5% of the population; And most of that held by white men who are over the age of 50. I don't suppose you're willing to say that this is because that's the only group that works hard.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (4, Insightful)

ErkDemon (1202789) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772119)

Come now ... you aren't seriously suggesting that George W. Bush's ability to become CEO of the USA was due in any significant way to his family's political connections rather than on a combination of obvious talent, natural aptitude, intelligence, and sheer hard work? His dad being a former president and his brother being governor of Florida had nothing to do with it!

And we all know that the guys who make multi-million dollar bonuses on Wall Street earn every cent of that money by working far harder then the rest of us. They work much longer hours than those lazy people on the poverty line with two or three jobs. And its very responsible work. And they're very responsible people. And you have to pay a premium for that responsibility. otherwise, I dunno, you might end up with a bunch of hacks crashing the market. Which would never, ever happen with our guys.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771787)

"Success is being in the right place at the right time. That's 50% of it. The remaining 50% are 30% hard work and 20% talent. The point being, unless you're in the right place at the right time and you see the opportunity, your hard work and talent are unlikely to pay off."

This is the excuse I have heard from un-successful people that don't want to put the time and effort that it takes to actually be successful.

We have potential opportunities that pass by us every day. Without the proper knowledge or experience, these opportunities will just continue to pass by.

I would say it's more along the lines of 10% finding the opportunity (right place, right time) and 90% knowing what do do when you get it (talent and experience)

I think more accurately than that is this:

If you prepare correctly, you can make your chances of "right-place right-time" moments a lot higher. Part of getting into any line of work isn't just knowing how to do what you do, but it's knowing how to get work doing what you do.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

ET3D (1169851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771951)

I agree and disagree. "Knowing what to do when you get it" is IMO not that related to talent and experience.

The people who are successful are those who have the most business sense. You can have all the opportunities and talent and experience and you'll be on the payroll of someone who makes the actual money. Or you'll produce a great freeware product that will make many people happy but will not make you very successful (as things are measured).

If you're not the kind of person to drive yourself into the public light and stay there, talent and experience will get you a job that will possible make you comfortably wealthy, but it will not bring you to the level of these people.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (3, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771413)

Bull. It's more like 10%, with the rest being split between skill/intelligence and perseverance/hard work--with that split, I think, varying somewhat with the type of opportunity. Life is full of opportunities, and many people just don't take advantage of them.

So you think that success of Bill Gates (3, Insightful)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771483)

So you think that success of Bill Gates is attributable to skill, not to the fact that he was in the right place at the right time to trick IBM into distributing the operating system he was in the right place and at the right time to buy for $50K?

Re:So you think that success of Bill Gates (4, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771621)

No, Bill Gates is an aberration both in terms of the sheer luck, and his ruthless exploitation of it. When you talk about the most successful few individuals in the world, you talk about people who encountered (and engaged) the best opportunities in the world. But when you talk about success in a slightly less rarified sense, those opportunities are all over the place, and hard work is a MUCH more significant differentiator.

Re:So you think that success of Bill Gates (1)

stuboogie (900470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771697)

You're right. Anyone off the street could have done the same thing as Bill and had the same success.

Get over your hate of MS.

Bill Gates saw opportunity that others did not. He was able to buy the code, because the author did not have the vision that Bill had.

There is skill in knowing how, when and where to utilize resources to get the most out of the resources.

Re:So you think that success of Bill Gates (3, Insightful)

lattyware (934246) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771747)

Whatever you think about Bill Gates or M$ as a software provider, you have to respect the man as a businessman.

Why? (1)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771839)

Why should I respect him as a businessman? He missed the Internet. He missed search. He missed ad-funded business model. He missed digital music. He let Win Mobile to stagnate for years. He's overseen the Vista debacle. He got into Xbox business and sunk $6B into it so far with no prospect of ever recouping that loss.

A smaller company would have died after one of these.

It's kinda hard to fuck up much worse while running a company with unlimited financial resources, employing some of the brightest minds on the planet. That said, Steve Ballmer has been outdoing BillG's fuckups in every respect.

I respect the guy as a philantropist, hats off to him for that effort. But as a businessman in high tech? Not so much.

Re:Why? (1)

Doogie5526 (737968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772091)

I think those problems are because once you have a successful business model, you then try and diversify without undermining the successful business model. I feel it's a totally different ballgame. Although, this doesn't exactly explain Vista, win mobile, and digital music (but other than to compete with Apple, why would they have pioneered digital music?)

I think entrepreneurs are good at working at what they got, usually with a single strong vision of what they want and usually working well with limited resources.

Re:So you think that success of Bill Gates (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772139)

Bill Gates saw opportunity that others did not. He was able to buy the code, because the author did not have the vision that Bill had.

Gates already had done programming for other companies for spare change over the years, so he already had a feel for the software biz.

Also, the DOS purchase was a big gamble and the new Microsoft team knew it. Had they been married with kids, they probably wouldn't have taken that gamble.
     

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

inf4m0usB (991305) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771583)

Examining their lives and actions one cannot find that they owed anything to fortune but the opportunity which gave them matter to shape into the form they thought right. Without an opportunity, their abilities would have been wasted, and without their abilities, the opportunity would have arisen in vain. -Nicollo M.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771695)

It's more like 10%, with the rest being split between skill/intelligence and perseverance/hard work

For very large values of 10? Sorry, but looking at the history of most very successful people, I beg to differ. For example, the summary mentions Bill Gates. His dad was loaded, his mom got his school an early computer to play with, he got into the right part of the business at the right time, and he generally had good fortune. Do you really think we'd have Microsoft if Gates hadn't been, well, lucky? I'm not saying he didn't work hard, find opportunities, and use skill, and I'm not saying hard work won't take one far, but to get into the big leagues, it would appear that Lady Luck has a tendency to be a key player in the stories of most very successful people.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1, Insightful)

winwar (114053) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771901)

"Bull. It's more like 10%, with the rest being split between skill/intelligence and perseverance/hard work..."

Depends upon definition of success. If success is defined as being lower middle class or better, yes you may be right. If success means being Bill Gates, then you are incorrect.

People greatly overestimate their input in success and greatly underestimate chance. Laborers work harder than CEO's but get paid much less. You rarely get to be a CEO based on talent alone.

Bull x 3 (1)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771927)

Complete crap.

If you put in the hard work, you'll know where the right place and time is. It's 90%+ hard work, good decisions, and having someone to bankroll you in the early stages. It's less than 10% luck.

Right place? (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772075)

Define what you mean by "right place". Often the right place is in some affluent suburb while being in the wrong place is often being in a ghetto. It wasn't always this way but it has been getting worse.

Re:Success is being in the right place at the righ (1)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772125)

I've always heard it as:

10% luck
20% skill
15% concentrated power of will
5% pleasure
50% pain
100% reason to remember the name

(Apologies to Mike Shinoda)

ah, Malcolm Gladwell... (1)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771273)

Is there a 500-word essay out there that you cannot turn into a book? He needs to write a popular (how does he do it!? he must be a maven!) book on that!

Health (-1, Troll)

behindthewall (231520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771293)

My performance took a dive after some chronic physical health issues emerged. When I do have a better day, I'm struck with the difference between it and other days; I function so much better.

One reason I tend to land in the camp that wants to view healthcare as a right. Good health plays such a role in quality of life. And, in my anecdotal experience, in one's ability to contribute to society.

Whether or not one embraces "healthcare as a right" as a moral standard, to me it makes sense simple from a practical point of view. Healthy people contribute more.

What about Worlds of Warcraft (0, Offtopic)

iteyoidar (972700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771301)

Within the next 2-3 years (if it hasn't happened already) we should be seeing plenty of 20 year olds with at least 10,000 hours of World of Warcrafting under their belt before their birthday.

I guess there are going to be a lot of highly successful World of Warcraft experts in society.

Hmm... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771599)

I guess there are going to be a lot of highly successful World of Warcraft experts in society.

Do you think the Chinese will take a trillion in WOW gold instead of US dollars?

 

Re:Hmm... (1)

nevillethedevil (1021497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771803)

Don't see why not, it's worth about three times more than the dollar........

Bjarne Stroustrup tops them all (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771307)

I am with Bjarne on this one.
Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of the C++ programming language, claims that C++ is experiencing a revival and
that there is a backlash against newer programming languages such as Java and C#. "C++ is bigger than ever.
There are more than three million C++ programmers. Everywhere I look there has been an uprising
- more and more projects are using C++. A lot of teaching was going to Java, but more are teaching C++ again.
There has been a backlash.", said Stroustrup.

He continues.. ..What would the world be like without Google?... Only C++ can allow you to create applications as powerful as MapReduce which allows them to create fast searches.

I totally agree. If Java ( or Pyhton etc. for that matter ) were fast enough why did Google choose C++ to build their insanely fast search engine. MapReduce rocks.. No Java solution can even come close.
I rest my case.

I think what people miss the most (1, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771315)

Is that success is often not merely talent and hard work, but having talent and being in the right place at the right time.

How many /.ers could have been Bill Gates?

Yet, only Bill Gates had both the contacts at IBM and the luck that IBM didn't can the PC project.

Also, what the laissez-faire business proponents often fail to realize is that the markets are often structured in such a way as to preclude everyone with the talent from actually competing. Consider the network effect on operating systems, for example. Even though you and I could write our own operating systems, the fact is that once one is written, it can be distributed and sold for a nominal cost; Microsoft has already amortized a large part of the cost of the Windows operating system, meaning that they can sell it for far less than it would cost me to write my own. In other words, in spite of the amount of talent out there, there's only room for one Bill Gates. And the laissez-faire economists often miss this point.

The consequence, of course, is that while many people could have made as much money as the star players in the technology game, the market will tolerate only a few super-millionaires. The rest of us - despite our talent - either never had the opportunity, or chose to forego it for other, more important reasons (such as spending time raising a family). This notion that anyone can become rich in the tech sector is not entirely false; provided that you understand that not everyone can become rich. The rest of us with the talent of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates will have to sign our inventions over to our employers and settle for a middle class lifestyle.

Luck favors the prepared (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771801)

Yet, only Bill Gates had both the contacts at IBM and the luck that IBM didn't can the PC project

.

There can't have been anyone in the tech industry who wasn't aware of Microsoft before 1980.

Microsoft was selling BASIC to customers like General Electric as early as 1976. The MBASIC interpreter became the de-facto standard for the eight-bit micro.

It had compilers for MBASIC, FORTRAN and COBOL on the market no later than '77-'78.

In 1979 Microsoft 8080 BASIC is the first microprocessor product to win the ICP Million Dollar Award. Traditionally dominated by software for mainframe computers, this recognition is indicative of the growth and acceptance of the PC industry. Microsoft Timeline [thocp.net]

DR in those days was still Intergalatic Digital Research. and ambling along like a one-man band.

Not the best image to project when negotiating with IBM.

10,000 hours by the age of 20? (1, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771319)

Too bad there isn't any market demand for guys who masturbate :-(

Re:10,000 hours by the age of 20? (4, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771341)

Too bad there isn't any market demand for guys who masturbate :-(

Apparently there is - just look at Gladwell!

Re:10,000 hours by the age of 20? (1)

1%warren (78514) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772031)

Apparently there is - just look at Gladwell!

Yeah, look at gladwell [gladwell.com] . Far more to the book than the summary & article mention.

Flip comment = (Score:5, Insightful). Only on /.

Re:10,000 hours by the age of 20? (2, Informative)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771751)

Larry> Too bad there isn't any market demand for guys who masturbate :-(

lol ;)

Also, wrong. There's sperm banks.

Unfortunately they only accept a limited number of wads per donor. Why unfortunately? Imagine meeting a friend's friend at a party:

Larry> Hi, I'm Larry.
Jonas> 'Jonas.
Larry> So, what do you do for a living?
Jonas> I'm a programmer; how about yourself?
Larry> I'm a wanker.

Success is a choice (2, Funny)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771329)

Success is a choice. Everybody knows that.

Re:Success is a choice (3, Insightful)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771641)

No, not everybody can be a success. If everybody put in 10,000 hours training as children, there would just be a whole lot more people competing for that one top spot, but still only one top spot.

Re:Success is a choice (1)

JPortal (857107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771821)

Right, because there is only One Top Spot.
Yo-Yo Ma, the world's foremost cellist, does not compete with Joshua Bell, a professional violinist, or Barack Obama, the leader of a powerful nation.

Re:Success is a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771851)

Durh. We all know we all wake up every morning, go to the fridge, take out their bread, and capriciously choose between the "iwillsucceed" jam and the "iwontsucceed" jam. We spread it on our bread, and either walk out the door and hit oil with a shovel in the front yard or get hit by a bus crashing through the front door.

What the hell? People don't choose between success and failure, they choose between hard work and being lazy. Sometimes lazy gets success; sometimes hard work does.

It's this kind of attitude that leads to racism and oppression of massive swaths of society.

Re:Success is a choice (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771939)

Whoossh!! That was the sound of sarcasm flying over many /.-ers heads.

I was going for funny but now I'm Insightful? Come on, please mod me down.

Re:Success is a choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25772027)

I have infinitely more respect for you, tsa.

Rich Parents (5, Insightful)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771393)

It doesn't hurt to have very well-to-do parents.

Re:Rich Parents (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771445)

That's true, but they have to be something more than just indulgent. I've seen quite a few kids with rich parents who do nothing but watch TV, hang out and play on their PS3s.

I think after the level where the stuff they can provide matches the stuff you're really interested in (rather than just for the novelty) it doesn't make much of a difference.

Re:Rich Parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771501)

By rich, I think GP is implying powerful. See GW Bush, a career failure of whom the world would have heard nothing had it not been for the "daddy factor".

Re:Rich Parents (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771493)

It doesn't hurt to have very well-to-do parents.

It does help. It knocks years off the time it takes to get to the point that you have enough assets to do something.

In the US, having rich parents gives more of an edge than it did fifty years ago. Few kids used to attend private schools, and if they did, they were probably Catholic. Now, there's a whole system of high-end schools and activities for rich kids. There's heavy institutional support for getting into the right college. Fifty years ago, there were SATs, but nobody took special SAT preparation courses. This is reflected in the rising correlation between the parents income and the child's income.

Re:Rich Parents (4, Insightful)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771625)

> Few kids used to attend private schools, and if they did, they were probably
> Catholic. Now, there's a whole system of high-end schools and activities for
> rich kids.

That has a ton more to do with the federal government's failure of the public education system than it does rich parents. In fact, the household income threshold where people below that threshold would attend public schools is moving further further toward the lower-middle class. That suggests a strong shift in household spending priorities, which is partially due to education competition but even moreso due to the failure of the public school system. Many many families are paying double for education (taxation to fund public schools, tuition to pay the school they actually utilize and benefit from).

> There's heavy institutional support for getting into the right college. Fifty
> years ago, there were SATs, but nobody took special SAT preparation courses.
> This is reflected in the rising correlation between the parents income and
> the child's income.

I think you are right, partially. But, again, I think you are missing the fact that current education does not properly prepare students for college, and therefore does not adequately prepare them for the SATs and ACTs. Both my sister and I did not bother with those courses, but we were fortunate enough to have a single parent raising two children who worked very, very hard to send us to schools that would actually prepare us for professional success.

I will say, though, that I must be lacking in the math department, because I have never been able to figure out how she was able to afford the private school tuition (although, I do know that our high school had funds available to subsidize the tuition of those with less income, and we did receive some of that subsidy -- further evidence that private schooling could actually work).

Re:Rich Parents (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771647)

The article says that Steve Jobs was not from a rich family, unlike Gates

It also says:

one of the most respected executives in the software world, Steve Ballmer.

Is that really a reflection of Ballmer's reputation? I would have though "nothing like as good at running MS as Gates was" is more accurate.

Re:Rich Parents (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771811)

I would have though "nothing like as good at running MS as Gates was" is more accurate.

Is it, really? someone is bound to mod me down for this (defending M$, WTF) but, IMHO Ballmer has been much better than Gates at running Microsoft. He seems, to me, to regard competitors with contempt, as if nobody could ever touch Microsoft, which is much better than the open hostility Gates usually showed. As a result, I've seen much less 'extinguish'ing than usual from them, which can only be a good thing, both for Microsoft themselves, and for the rest of the world.

Re:Rich Parents (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772051)

THIS.

I'm sorry, but as a person whose business it is to know money, this is repeatedly the main factor. If you are in a well-to-do family, you have more opportunities than others, you know how to act around rich people, and you have the contacts.

I've also met people who have pulled themselves up from poverty to success, however they are very few and far between, especially compared to the many people I've met who are lucky enough to be born into money and opportunity.

I am guilty of this to an extent. My family is on the cusp of the middle/lower middle class, as my dad's been very sick for about 15 years. However, he's really smart and has a financial planning business he's cobbled together despite all his illnesses. If it weren't for my being brought up in that environment and having the opportunity to be mentored by him, I would probably be working a crappy tech job that I don't like, or worse.

It IS about hard work. It is also about recognizing opportunities and capitalizing on them. However, in order to be motivated to work hard, in order to know how to work SMART and not just HARD, in order to have the knowledge to capitalize on opportunities, having money is key.

I'm sorry to say it, but I see it all the time and it's made me a bit cynical. On the other hand, it does make me want to work harder to make a better life for someone if I should decide to have kids.

Money doesn't make you happy, but it sure smooths out the road to that goal.

One other factor... (0, Flamebait)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771433)

They were all white men too. go ahead now, mark me down as flamebait, but do it knowing it's true. Some people are just born "lucky." The rest of us actually have to work.

Re:One other factor... (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771637)

You don't suppose demographics [wikipedia.org] has anything to do with it?

Also, women contribute a lot to society too (all sorts of operations jobs, raising families, inventing [google.com] useful [about.com] stuff [productcoach.com] , etc.), just that we men don't always give women the recognition they deserve.

If this makes you feel any better: I believe men are the ones who dream up of destructive tactics like patent trolling, buy-and-kill, sue-until-bankrupt, and so forth.

(Oh no, now I'm going to be modded down as flamebait too.)

Re:One other factor... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771659)

It's just that as long as we're going to admit to ourselves that a person's abilities and talents are equally or less relevant than who they are, we should explore why this is and who's benefiting from this invisible framework. But as you can see by the score of my original post; It's not a comfortable truth. People who benefit from the system (white men, which make up the majority demographic here on slashdot) don't want to admit that it's this system that gets them ahead in life, not their abilities, talents, or contributions. And so long as that is true, nothing's going to change.

Re:One other factor... (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772133)

People who benefit from the system (white men, which make up the majority demographic here on slashdot) don't want to admit that it's this system that gets them ahead in life, not their abilities, talents, or contributions.

Taking your argument and applying it to my work experience, I'd came up with the following scenario:

If you're a new employee, for example, several factors determine how well you're accepted by your co-workers and bosses:

  1. familiarity with your race, in general
  2. comfort level with your race, in general
  3. the way you talk, personally
  4. the way you think, personally

And in a way, that determines your acceptance level in a company.

It will be up to you to change yourself, so that you are more well-accepted by the people in the company. If you succeed in making people like and respect you, then your powerful positive factors will easily override the skin-color factor, demoting it to the background.

------------

Taking this example to my country:

Here in Singapore, the Chinese are the majority, and the Malays and Indians the minority. The LOCAL minority races are easily accepted among the Chinese due to their willingness to change their behavior. Kudos especially to the Malays for adopting a friendly attitude at all times.

The FOREIGN workers, however, are not so easily accepted among the local community (mostly Chinese), due to subtle differences in:

  • the way they think
  • our familiarity with their races and culture

I admit we Singaporeans have not done enough to understand other cultures, but I also believe foreigners (and minority races) have a duty to make themselves more acceptable to us (i.e. make us feel more comfortable having them around). If only foreign Indians would stop using their very-odorous hair cream, for example, we would have a much better impression of them.

------------

Just to make you feel better, perhaps you can take a look at African Americans [wikipedia.org] . Look at all the great Afro-Americans alive today, in various fields. Suddenly, the white men's achievements in IT doesn't seem that significant.

Name is important too (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771453)

Give yourself the name "William" (popularly known as "Bill").

Re:Name is important too (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771993)

If you have read Freakonomics, the data show that there is no correlation between your name and how (un)successful you will be.

A couple of years ago... (1)

dfdashh (1060546) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771457)

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." -Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

bill gate is successful same way the mob is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771469)

may have something to do with the fact bill gates basically would line himself with a company and then fucking steal their code and sue them for using code he stole. his practice of forcing PC sales company to sign exclusive distributorship contracts forbidding the sale of other OS systems.

Start working on something complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771487)

So lets say it takes 10,000 hours to master a complex ability. What about simple ones? It takes about 3 months of working to become a master fry cook, 480 hours. That means every day you spend frying after that is essentially wasted human potential.

Boring and trite (1)

milatchi (694575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771517)

What a boring and trite excerpt. I hope this didn't get any accolades or high-praise. I'll sum it up for those who didn't read:
Hard work + Intelligence + Luck = Success

print the legend .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771541)

"Bill Gates .. Brilliant young maths wiz .."

The Pivot Table ..

"The whole idea of time-sharing only got invented in 1965"

timesharing John McCarthy 1957 [stanford.edu]

Getting in on the ground floor (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771591)

It does help to be in the right place at the right time. But you get to pick where you are. Moving from New York to Silicon Valley in 1974 worked out very well for me.

Twentysomethings who went to San Francisco in 1998 for the dot-com boom did OK, although not for long. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of twentysomethings in SF dropped 40% when the dot-com boom collapsed.

You can work hard and still guess wrong, though. If you thought that fusion power was going to be big, and spent the necessary years to get a doctorate in nuclear physics, you're probably not working in that field now.

There's nothing right now that looks as promising as the great booms of the past - railroads, automobiles, electricity, radio, aviation, plastics, computing, the Internet. The smart young people I know seem to be going into either biotech or law, but neither field is really booming. I have hopes for robotics, but it's not having a boom yet.

Re:Getting in on the ground floor (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771669)

There's nothing right now that looks as promising as the great booms of the past - railroads, automobiles, electricity, radio, aviation, plastics, computing, the Internet. The smart young people I know seem to be going into either biotech or law, but neither field is really booming. I have hopes for robotics, but it's not having a boom yet.

how about power? wind, solar, but that's just a matter of investing enough money. the tech is already available ...

Re:Getting in on the ground floor (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771761)

how about power? wind, solar

Well, I know someone who has a Solar Universe [solaruniverse.com] franchise, but you have to be comfortable climbing on roofs.

Re:Getting in on the ground floor (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772015)

The big money is never in selling/installing existing technology, it's about creating new/better/cheaper technology.

Plenty of room for improvement in the areas of battery/storage technology, solar power, wind power, tidal power, power distribution, etc... etc...

It will be the next boom and it will happen a LOT sooner than you expect.

Oh, there's still one coming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25772017)

Molecular nanotechnology. That will be bigger than the industrial revolution, easily.

Port 23? (3, Funny)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771619)

At first glance I read "Success Not Just a Matter of Telnet..."

Oh Ssh! (1)

Rayban (13436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772063)

Don't be so insecure...

Correct. In fact, success is... (1)

lkl (765224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771631)

Success is a mental transformation.
A. Vayner.
PS. Impossible Is Nothing!

Uphill Battle for Most (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771683)

Access to funds/influence is usually a non-trivial prerequisite for success. Did Gates or Jobs have "connections"?

No slur or sneer at them if they did, but that tends to help a lot.

These days with the internet it's much easier to get an idea out and looked at.

What would Machiavelli do? (4, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771689)

The other day I looked at a book entitled "What would Machiavelli do?". In the back it said something about people not achieving success despites their talent. The book then asked a question: Why is it that some people who are not as talented, obtain success? Are they smarter? Stronger? No. They're simply more evil.

I'm sure Bill Gates read that book and applied it accordingly, screwing the lives of everyone just for his personal gain.

Born Lucky (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771729)

Bill Gates is William Henry Gates IV. His father, Bill Sr [wikipedia.org] (born "III") was one of America's top corporate lawyers, as was his mother. That's why Microsoft was able to outmaneuver IBM on a one-way exclusive contract for PC DOS, and later even weasel out of the "landmark" US monopoly judgement (the senior Gates' lobbying lawfirm Preston Gates & Ellis [wikipedia.org] was where Republican uberlobbyist Jack Abramoff got his start [wikipedia.org] until Bush's "Justice" Department took over the "penalty" phase).

I'd rather be lucky than good any day. For Bill Gates, that's his birthright.

Re:Born Lucky (5, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771769)

Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple. -Barry Switzer

Re:Born Lucky (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771895)

That's why Microsoft was able to outmaneuver IBM on a one-way exclusive contract for PC DOS
.

Gates was selling an MBASIC interpreter to damn near everyone on the planet who bought a PC. He didn't need Dear Old Dad to tell him to keep his independence from IBM The deal was never exclusive - that is what made it so profitable. There were competing MSDOS machines on the market before the cloning of the PC BIOS.

Re:Born Lucky (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772053)

No, Gates needed his corporate lawyer parents and their pick to be MS's lawyer to help him actually negotiate with IBM. Including waiting for the IBM execs who were against exclusivity to be out of town when Gates finally cut a better deal with their temporary replacements.

The deal was most certainly exclusive, in Gates' favor: IBM was excluded from using any other OS, but Gates could license DOS to any other PC maker. Gates even negotiated a "concession" to IBM: if IBM wanted to make a successor to DOS, AKA OS/2, they could use code from DOS to build it on. Which meant that DOS programs had an advantage on running on the new OS, and MS had the insider position of shaping the entire rest of the other OS. Even enough to design it to die in competition with DOS (which are a couple of reasons why Windows remained based on DOS for so long, until OS/2 was safely dead).

Gates deserves credit for the insights that such lockin would pay off in monopoly power for decades, as the PC rose to replace most of IBM's big iron. But the negotiations were courtesy of his parents' corporate lawyer connections. And their $millions in the bank, which incidentally let Gates drop out of Harvard to market BASIC without worrying. For which I give his parents at least as much credit, for allowing it.

I wonder what will happen (2)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771797)

once I get my 10k hours of slashdot...

right place right time (3, Interesting)

opencity (582224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771935)

Wasn't it Feynman who said something along the lines of "You only discover America once"?

To me there's always a new wave to surf. I had a friend waxing bitter in about 1996 about how he'd missed the golden age of garage innovation. That there was never going to be another Apple. There hasn't been, but there was a Google.

The 10,000 hours number seems weird ... I tell beginner musicians that there is a certain amount of pain and boredom before it starts to get fun. I usually randomly pull a number between 10 and 25 hrs out of the air.

So 4 hours a day on the piano is 2,500 days. Round up to 7 years. Sounds about right.

Just Curious (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25771965)

How many hours do the Slashdot dupe checkers have under their belts?
   

I know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25771987)

I'm still posting on slashdot

Right place right time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25772087)

There is definitely something about being in the right place at the right time.

But often if you take a closer look, you will find that those people were in *more* places at *more* times than anybody else.

You can't make lightning strike. But you can make sure you're the tallest tree around.

I don't know. (1)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25772141)

How many hours do the Slashdot dupe checkers have under their belts?

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