Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gates v. Jobs

I'm starting to think this is going to be an awkward conversation if we ever have this book club since, so far, I'm not impressed with Outliers.

In support of his theroy that almost anyone can achieve excellence with 10,000 hours of practice, Gladwell spills considerable ink documenting the confluence of events that allowed Bill Gates to get his 10,000 programming hours. Gate's proficiency at programming, we are told, is not because Gates is especially talented in any way, but because he logged a lot of programming hours. He was lucky to get access to a computer between the hours of 3 am and 6 am. He was lucky to live in proximity to a computer in the 60s. He was lucky to get released from school to do a special programming task.

I concede that there is some luck in being in the right place at the right time. But I took a different lesson away from this events. Bill Gates was extremely motivated to learn programming. He wanted to spend all his after-school time programming. He was willing to get up in the middle of the night to program, and hide that from his parents. Yes, he was lucky to be close to a computer, but more so, he was really motivated to learn.

But when the book gets to Steve Jobs, it really goes off the rails. There we learn that Steve Jobs didn't have computer terminal access, but he had another advantage: free computer parts! Those parts, Gladwell tells us, are "on par with Bill Gates getting unlimited access to a time-share terminal at age thirteen."

Funny, but I don't see a parallel at all.

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