Is The Self-Made Man A Myth?

He's considered a geek God with hipster status. His ability to punch holes in conventional wisdom has made him a rockstar to everyone from college students to CEOs.

Malcolm Gladwell's first book was "The Tipping Point," was about small actions haveing profound impacts. He seemed to put the phrase on the tip of everyone's tongue.

His second book, "Blink," argued snap judgments can be just as effective as protracted analysis.

In his newest book, "Outliers," Gladwell sets his sights on the self-made man - and claims he does not exist, CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports.

"People who were very successful, the big CEOs who were making their $100 million paychecks, were patting themselves on the back very firmly and saying 'I deserve it.' And I wanted to ask the question, 'do they deserve it?'" Gladwell said.

"And what I discovered is that's not true. And success is a product of culture of background and what your parents and great-grandparents and great great grandparents did for a living."

In fact, culture, he claims, plays a significant role in education. Why, he wondered, are Asian kids so good at math?

"You can do experiments with Asian kids and American kids where you give them a really hard math problem," he said. "If the American kids can't solve it right away, they will quit after a minute. It's a cultural attitude and it's about persistence."

And he says Americans only go to school 185 days a year. The Japanese, 250. Which brings him to his next point: Practice makes perfect.

"In almost any field that's difficult, it's impossible to find someone who's good who hasn't spent 10,000 hours practicing," he said.

There are other ingredients in his recipe for success, and some, you simply can't control.

"Well, luck, if you look at a list of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley an incredible number of them are born in 1955. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google. All the founders of Sun Microsystems are born in the same year. That is not a coincidence. It has to do with the fact that the personal computer revolution happens in 1975 when they were 20 years old and that is the perfect age to be confronted with a revolution. Right? You don't have a family or kids or a mortgage. Your mind is wide open. You've got nothing at stake in the existing order of things and you can embrace some new paradigm."

If in the end, this all sounds like something your mother could have told you, Gladwell is unapologetic.

"Do you ever feel your work is oversimplistic? That it is stating the obvious?" Couric asked.

"Sometimes. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think my role is, I'm trying to start conversations," he said. "I want to start from a simplistic place and I want to complexify that and take you on a journey. I am trying to make complicated ideas accessible."
  • Katie Couric

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