Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to This Outlier who "Payed Her Dues" and some: A Mythological Legend in Our Time.

        Malcolm Gladwell’s explorations on the 10,000 hour rule discussed in his#1 bestselling Outlier can be applied to an Iconic figure who has been in the public since her youth.  Gladwell gives evidence as to why Paul McCartney & the Beatles and Bill Gates were bound for their respective successes.  My concept of Opportunistic Emergence which is in concurrence with Gladwell’s ideas that talent and “Genius” is important but the blend of the talent with circumstance, luck or synchronicity play a necessary part in reaching the top of excellence.  I would say that other life or God-like forces and history play a part in the advancement of greatness.  But what is so obvious and often forgotten is the 10,000 hours that is required before reaching true success.
        It isn’t just “payin’ your dues” but there is actually scientific data supporting that the human brain needs approximately 10,000 hours of a specific craft, or mastery of skill to arrive to the precipice of that craft.  Because of this needed time the scale frequently tips to the side of the rich or privileged.  If the talent has parental or community resources to support him (or her) during these prerequisite hours he can go far (piano lessons or gymnastic classes can be financially costly! – and can a parent and child invest that great deal of time and incorporate it into their daily living?).  If you follow the beginnings of most Outliers you find that they

had access or a connection to someone that allowed them to reach their 10,000 hours.  Randomly supporting this:  Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, of famed Fleetwood Mac, just happened to practice for hours daily.  The catch?  Buckingham grew up in affluent Atherton/Palo Alto California.  His father belonged to a local country club that supported Lindsay’s brother’s future accomplishment of an Olympic swimming silver medal.  The collection of the 10,000 hours?  Nicks and Buckingham just happened to do their extensive all hours of the night practicing at his father’s coffee plant (Yes, he owned it so he gave his son access to the open warehouse – talk about great acoustics!) How is that for access?  So back to the story.  As Bill Gates acknowledged having luck after luck and as he snuck out of his privileged home as a pre-teen to walk to the University of Washington so that he could do computer programming from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. to “pay his dues” he was accruing the 10,000 hours to reach brilliance. So, as the Beatles were playing 7 days a week for 8 hour gigs in Hamberg, Germany for over a year to “pay their dues” they were accruing their needed 10,000 hours to achieve greatness.  

So let’s bring the attention to the birthday girl who was born 69 years ago today.  Remember, if you reach the 10,000 hours and if you have luck and good fortune, then you can apply yourself during your Opportunistic Emergence if it comes your way.  Some might argue that she defined what it means to be a pop Diva. Many only know her as a Superstar from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s who still sells out stadiums worldwide.  But if you archive her career you revisit that skinny little nasally nymph who rode on the bus in the segregated south and witnessed lynchings while fulfilling her Chitlin’ Circuit commitments.  You had a teenager who was at the studio doing backup signing for anyone who would allow her to sing. You had a girl that kept recording song after song for years and was coined by her hit making peers at Motown as the “no hit Supremes.”   You saw the artist that crossed the Canadian border to do 5 shows a day. You also had a focused committed artist who went to acting classes, fashion classes in the 60’s before it was acceptable.  You had a singer that prepared for the next day while others made recreational activity choices that were not focused on their careers.  Driven, talented, obsessed, nice girl at the right time, loyal to Motown?  Whatever the circumstances, Diana Ross clearly fits as a model case study of an Outlier and Opportunistic Emergence phenomena as she was born within a time period that worked for her.  She was 18 when Motown Industries started to dominate the music industry of the 60’s; she was in Detroit at the right time; she was at Motown where she could earn her required hours of training (other record labels did not offer that luxury, freedom and creativity); and she met Berry Gordy that heard what no one else was hearing.           
And if we use the formula that Gladwell presents when revealing a true Outlier isn’t it interesting that somewhere after that 10,000 hours things start to really explode?  In Ross’ case her explosion was not being a part of the most successful female group of her era; it was not being the most successful American group throughout the 60’s; it was not earning 6 consecutive #1 singles early in her career.  This is what happened after her 10,000 hours.  She became the first female lead singer from a group to launch a successful solo career.  She launched into Television with her own variety specials.  She headlined a major motion picture and was nominated for an academy award in her first feature.  She headlined Vegas as a solo act.  This was extraordinary by any standards; however, what separated her from other Outliers was that she was accomplishing these things in the 60’s and early 70’s as an African American woman.   So, she really gives “Reflections” that when others “Reach Out and Touch” a true talent they become Outliers and they can really show that there really “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”  The short list of accomplishments to a woman that has been an active part of the cultural and social shift of the American and African American psyche:


·         Billboard has claimed her Female Entertainer of the Century,
·         Genness Book of World Records listed her as the most successful female music artist in history.
·         Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
·         Multiple American Music Award recipient.
·         Tony award recipient,
·         Golden Globe recipient.
·         NARAS recipient of a  Lifetime Achievement Grammy
·         Kennedy Center Honoree. 

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