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Trained For Success

Found this quote on Eric Musselman’s blog regarding Malcolm Gladwell’s latest work, Outliers. Here are a few very interesting quotes:

Success also has a lot to do with culture. For example:

“Asian culture has a profoundly different relationship to work. It rewards people who are persistent. 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.”Gladwell contends that value — of sticking with something — is grounded in Asian history and culture:

“Asian cultures are all wet-rice agricultural economies. Growing rice is this extraordinarily complex, labor-intensive activity that requires not just physical engagement but mental engagement. So a farmer in 14th-century Japan or 14th-century China was working 3,000 hours a year – three times longer. I know it sounds hard to believe, but habits laid down by our ancestors persist even after the conditions that created those habits have gone away.”According to Gladwell, “instead of thinking about talent as something that you acquire, talent should be thought of as something that you develop.”

OK, so I want to say that these habits cannot be perpetuated without those conditions and that a certain nihilism has set in with the recent crop of Asian Americans. We do not have the same sense of success as our parents I would venture to say, but are running off an inertia of success. And while our prosperity and success may bear fruit into future generations, it is not the same kind in as much as good management is not synonymous with good entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, because success has given rise to a sense of nihilism (although unlike the nihilism of poverty), we must be cautious as to what this means as it relates to our souls. Just as Dubois wrote on the “Souls of Black Folk” to shed light on the weight of racism for black folk, it would be good for us to have some dialogue as to what the weight of our own commoditization has done to us. There is something inherently dehumanizing when all gifts and talents are measured by our outputs valued in a capitalistic economy. And it is problematic when we profit so much over selling our souls that we scarcely miss them.


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

One response to “Trained For Success

  1. Margaret Feit ⋅

    “And it is problematic when we profit so much over selling our souls that we scarcely miss them.” -Wow, what a profound insight.

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