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Magic number is the sum of success

Malcolm Gladwell, who popularised the phrase ‘The Tipping Point’ in his first book of the same name, has written another in time for Christmas.

Outliers: the Story of Success examines just what makes the exceptional exceptional. He comes up with the number 10,000 as the number of hours of learning, or practice, that you have to put in to become the best in your field.

Innate talent has very little to do with it, he says. 10,000 hours is the amount of time one must dedicate to getting good. Mozart, The Beatles and Bill Gates all clocked up 10,000 hours before doing their best work.

And, although Gladwell doesn’t mention it, you’d probably find a designer such as Vivienne Westwood, or a Savile Row tailor, has put in a similar chunk of time.

Intelligence alone does not count for much either, he says. As long as you are bright, you can succeed. But there are other factors. Success, he says, is about where you are from. Bill Gates was born at the best time to thrive in computing and grew up in one of the only places in the world where he could acquire the necessary skills.

I bet the same is true of Renzo Rosso, the founder of the Diesel fashion label, born in the Veneto, Italy, in 1955.

There is a fascinating section in the book on Jewish immigrants in New York’s garment district (who would have thought that trend-spotting existed in the 1890s?) and how they bred the city’s most successful lawyers.

Hard work ignites success, but you have to love what you do. No one succeeds on their own, insists Gladwell, but with opportunity and drive, there can be no stopping you.

Oliver Horton is a freelance fashion writer and commentator

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