I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers book.
Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."
Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari Malcolm
This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.
"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals," writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, "this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years... No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."
For an exercise I tried to figure out what I had practiced for 10,000 hrs. And, what I came up with is being a technology evangelist.
A technical or technology evangelist is a person who attempts to build a critical mass of support for a given technology in order to establish it as a technical standard in a market that is subject to network effects. Professional technology evangelists are often employed by firms which seek to establish their proprietary technologies as de facto standards or to participate in setting non-proprietary open standards. Non-professional technology evangelists may act out of altruism or self-interest (e.g., to gain the benefits of early adoption or the network effect).
Technical evangelists may act, officially or unofficially, on behalf of a company or organisation, or on a personal basis, for instance open source evangelism. An evangelist promotes the use of a particular product or technology through talks, articles, blogging, user demonstrations, recorded demonstrations, or the creation of sample projects. The word evangelism is taken from the context of religious evangelism because of the similar recruitment of converts and the spreading of the product information through the ideological or committed.
Being independent of an organization has allowed me to have more fun blogging on the Green Data Center topic, and working with whoever I want. Working at companies like Apple and Microsoft I learned a lot, but being on my own is turning out to be like graduating from college, taking the path of altruism.
Blogging is part of my practice; researching and writing about technology and methods to create greener data centers. I have a long way to go to achieve 10,000 hrs on green data centers, but I am sure time will go by quickly.