An Additive Theory to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hours Theory from "Outliers, The Story of Success": The World is So Heavily Biased That You May Have to Actually Go Crazy to Succeed (Applicable to Performing Saxophonists)

This article is a follow-up to this one, and it is cross-posted on Reddit; the html version of the article is here:

I could post cute saxophone videos, but I think that that is a waste of both my time AND your time. I want to post articles that I think will make people think about tough fundamental issues that prevent people from achieving their performance goals. I think that what I am going to say below has a strong kernel of truth, so I am not going to listen to people who are going to try to convince me that I'm wrong: either you're going to love the article, or you're going to hate it. I'm going to ignore all feedback, both positive and negative (see my discussion in the article below), because I know in my heart of hearts that what I am saying below is largely fundamentally correct, based on all of the evidence that I have reviewed. I hope that you get as much from reading this article as I did from writing it. My intent is not to offend anyone: just to tell the truth to the best of my abilities, so that other people can benefit from it. Enjoy!

In this article series, I will try to impart some knowledge on some of the fundamental truths of human nature. The truth will always offend some people, but I think that for us as a human race to start to achieve breakthroughs in human performance FOR THE MAJORITY OF HUMANITY, we have to stop telling ourselves lies: we HAVE TO start analyzing our true nature. Offending a few people is a price that I am willing to pay to better understand how we can help more people to attain their God-given potential.

In this series, I try not to only inject my opinion: I try to read what leading minds say first. In preparation for this article: I read Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers", I rewatched this video on higly accomplished Navy Seal David Goggins:, and I re-watched this documentary on the highly accomplished alto saxophonist Charlie Parker:

Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers, The Story of Success" is a fascinating look at how societal pressures and preferences/biases have a dramatic effect on the success outcomes of developing human beings. For example, Gladwell states that in school, slightly older children (i.e. a child born in January 2001) are given a slight competitive advantage over slightly younger children (i.e. a child born in August 2001) because of a hidden bias in the mind of the teacher: the teacher misinterprets the slight advantage in physical maturity of the older child as being a difference in innate intellectual capability. The subconscious bias causes the teacher to spend more time and attention on the slightly older student, leading to an even greater advantage. This advantage continues throughout the lives of both children, often leading to the slightly older child maintaining a permanent advantage until death.

What is Gladwell's description of the nature of the problem: the slightly older child is relatively ENCOURAGED (accelerated), while the slightly younger child is relatively DISCOURAGED (retarded).

On page 32, Gladwell writes "We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail."

Gladwell's mitigation to the subconscious bias:

  1. For anyone who wants to succeed, they have to learn to ignore any relative discouragement: they have to learn to tune out the negative voices.
  2. Follow the 10,000 hours rule: they have to put in an absolute minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to completely master the field of study in which the person wants to succeed.

The problem: people will STILL try to subconsciously discourage people that they feel don't deserve to succeed. For example, saxophonist Charlie Parker developed genius-level technical competency on the saxophone by putting in several thousand hours of practice, but he was STILL very maltreated by a racist society that had a very difficult time seeing a black man as a genius (Evidence: please see jazz expert Leonard Feather's analysis from timestamp  47:24 to timestamp 48:03 of this video: (For a full understanding I strongly recommend that you watch the entire video from beginning to end).

How can this level of negative bias be overcome? I have a slightly modified version of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory: the person has to literally go crazy to succeed, to a point that  he or she completely dives into the work at an absolutely irrational level, while completely ignoring all detractors. They have to be so willing to buck the conventions that people become too afraid of the person to try to project negative biases onto the person. In other words, the person literally has to put in so much work that people think that he or she is too crazy to fail.

There are several examples of this extreme work ethic:

  • Charlie Parker put in 12 to 15 hours of practice a day for a period of four years.
  • John Coltrane practiced Giant Steps for a year before he recorded it.
  • David Sanborn was bullied, and he received a lot of negative bias from his peers because of his frailty due to having polio as a child. He turned the poison that they were trying to project onto him into diamonds by putting in an immense (perhaps insane) amount of hours of practice.
  • Former Navy Seal David Goggins was viciously abused as a child, and as a result put in a tremendous amount of work to become one of the hardest men in the world:

What is the key takeaway: life isn't fair, and sometimes you have to literally go insane to succeed. I don't think that Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000  hours are enough to overcome how evil and vindictive human beings can be. When they have it in their subconscious mind that they don't want a person, or a certain class of people, to succeed, they will constantly try to undermine and subvert that person or people. So the first step in the "insanity" is to completely throw what people think of you away: completely ignore them. Make them feel as insignificant as they try to make you feel by outworking them to an extent that they start to question your mental health.

10,000 hours is not enough: I think that a more effective goal is to attempt 10,000 repetitions of every act. My favorite singer is Angela Bofill, and my favorite song by her is "I Try". On top of my normal practice routine, I play "I Try" at least once every day. I am literally taking a years long deep dive into my favorite song: I have memorized the chord changes in one key, and I am working on mastering the song in all keys. Each time I play it, I'll try a different scale on top of it. Sometimes, it is a hexatonic blues scale. Sometimes, it is a dominant pentatonic scale. The key feature is to make it a personal attempt to destroy those who want to destroy me: I try to think of new things that they are too lazy to try. I try to work when I know that they are sleeping. The one thing that people can't control is what you do when you are away from them, and that is, I believe, one of the secrets to success: what you do when you are completely alone: do you think  about what people think about you, or do you perform parts of the massive amount of work that you will need to do to eventually succeed?

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