Was an Outlier Born That Way?

Malcolm Gladwell writes about people of great measure in their respected fields in his book “Outliers.” He talks about the numerous things that may affect the reason that a professional athlete or violinist is so good at what they do. He has come up with the 10,000 hour rule stating that if someone puts 10k hours of work into something, they can be an expert. What I want to know is whether I too can be a professional basketball player if I put 10,000 hours of work into it, or are there some people who are more predisposed. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have both commented on the fact that they were in the right place at the right time. Clearly, these two are some of the better known outliers in the world. So, with enough work, can I be the next Bill Gates?

A few years ago, I was flying to Colorado for a cross-country race. In the pocket on the seat in front of me was a magazine featuring an article about a man aspiring to be a professional golfer. He commented on a book written by Malcolm Gladwell and stated that he wanted to put it to the test. He quit his job and decided to spend the time he could playing golf. In the article, this man’s mother commented negatively on the habits of his son. The comments were along the line of, “He hasn’t finished anything in his life before, I am surprised he is still going.” Early on while reading this article it was clear to me that this man didn’t have the background of a professional athlete. He didn’t start playing the sport at a young age. He didn’t have a golf ball in his crib (that’s just good parenting). The article did not state whether he went on to play professionally, but it did state that he improved his gameplay within the first year tremendously. After another 5-10 years he may have been able to go pro. After all, golf is an old man’s sport right?

So, back to the question at hand. Is an outlier born an outlier? I say no. I remember running the mile in gym class in 3rd grade. The margin was fairly small between my peers and I. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I truly became an expert of the sport. It took me almost 10 years to get to the point where racing and training was second nature.

In the world of testing and quality assurance I think that millennials have been putting in hours without meaning to. Millennials have been growing up surrounded by technology that no one told them how to use. They have been developing the tools that one would need to notice that there is something wrong with the program they are using. Outliers are not born outliers. They may be naturally better at certain things but time will make someone an expert. Millennials have become experts in technology testing without noticing it. Who is willing to put it to the test?


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