outliers and morning successes

Several days ago I mentioned that I was going to begin my days by seeking input from technology (Facebook, email, etc.) after I had spent some time with God and done some creative work.  Well, this is my third  day and all is going well.  I have even been getting up early (for me – 6 am) and getting more use out of my mornings, something I have not been able to consistently do for some time.  OK, yesterday I slept an hour longer that the alarm was set, but I was still up sort of early: 7 am.

I am a musician and I love the evenings.  I also hate to let a day end, which is part of the reason I have been reluctant to get up early unless I had a deadline or meeting hanging over my head.  If I am honest, though, nothing good happens with me after 10 (or rarely, at least).  More often I go into some sort of fog and my decision making and judgement becomes suspect.

A lot of my inspiration came this week in the form of a book: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  I will not go into too much detail here, but the premise of his book is that outliers (people who defy the norm, i.e. “geniuses,” etc.) are not so different from all of us.  In fact, at the very end of the book Gladwell states that “Outliers are not really outliers after all.”  These are people of whom at least several things (among others) are true:

  • They had an opportunity or multiple opportunities for which they can take no credit
  • They at least good talent and ability
  • They had a really strong work ethic

Gladwell points out that very little differs in people who score 120 or above in Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests.  If someone has a 200 IQ but no work ethic, or a stand-off attitude towards authority, or no opportunity, or a combination of these and other things, that person will not necessarily excel over the person with a 120 IQ and who DOES have a work ethic, a healthy attitude towards authority, opportunity, and other “normal” factors.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was not the best candidate for leading the Manhattan Project, but in addition to solid engineering and scientific skills he was really good in reading and managing people.  In college he poisoned his professor (the professor survived) and, instead of being expelled or sent to prison, he talked his way into just being put on probation at college and continuing his studies.  In contrast Christopher Langan, arguably the smartest person living, could not negotiate changing a section of a class in college because his transportation fell through.

Christopher Langan

Gladwell only overlooks one issue, in my mind, and that is the presence of God in our lives.  Proverbs (NIV 1984) tells us that God is in control of all things:

  • 16:1To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.
  • 16:9In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
  • 19:21Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Earlier this week, then, with the book in mind I came to several conclusions about myself that were very encouraging:
  • I am smart enough
  • I have opportunities in front of me right now (more to come on that in a later post)
  • My success in these opportunities will, in large part, be directly related to how hard I am willing to work on them
  • Even tragedies and difficult times can turn out to be advantages

From Proverbs I came to several encouraging conclusions about God:

  • Because I am committed to following Christ, God will guide my steps.
  • Because God can see the future, I know I have a good guide.

I’m curious.  What opportunities have come along that made all the difference in your life?  What people came along without whom you would not be who you are today?  Where is God in your decision and planning processes?

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