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K. Smith

I am so glad to see a new article from you as it gives me something new to ponder. I am certainly impressed with prodigies but will always cheer the loudest for late bloomers. Thanks for your inspiration on this subject.


Thank you so much for this excellent article on a topic that has always been on my mind, but which I never heard discussed in the open.

Christopher Horn

Mozart famously practiced the piano for 5,000 hours prior to his 5th birthday. Picasso's father was an artist who also emphasized practice; as a young child Picasso "traced the masters" for innumerable hours, to the detriment of his schoolwork. The Welles' analogy is less straightforward, but it still fits this explanation reasonably well. While Orson was young by Hollywood standards to create Citizen Kane, he was also 3 years out from War of the Worlds, and a half dozen years into a highly-regarded Broadway career.

Hence, to the question: what is the difference between the precocious genius and the late-bloomer who plods his way to greatness?

Perhaps the precocious genius has already completed the 'plodding' part of the journey to genius. The precocious genius' "secret" is completing the plodding part unusually early, allowing the genius to "naturally" manifest itself unusually early as well.

Christopher Horn

And one other thing: the "plodding" part to genius must be easier for a youth than an old person, since a youth's brain is more pliable, and thus more easily able to transition into "genius" state.

An older person, with a much less flexible brain, probably has a longer way to "plod" to get to natural genius - which fact, taken together with the reality that older people are usually busily engaged in something else like a vocation or raising a family - may explain why geniuses tend to be disproportionately youthful.

(BTW - maybe the reason Cezanne was relatively late to genius was because he spent a bunch of his prime "plodding" years studying to be a lawyer. Maybe not the best use of time for a brilliant-artist-to-be).

Abi Tapia

Loved it! Lots of good ideas to ponder and discuss with all my artist friends, young and old. I wrote more on my blog: http://abitapia.blogspot.com Thanks for helping us see the world a little differently.

Earl Wilson

Thank you for your article on late bloomers. Having made simialar decisions at age 23, leaving a successful business to go into classical piano, I've never had any regrets. The journey has led to many fulfilling successes. At 30 I placed first in performance at the top Canadian university, I've had the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country, and I've loved giving back the encouragement and teaching I received by teaching and encouraging many others. When Ivo Pogorelich started his international piano competition in the '90s he refused to enforce a maximum age requirement (usually 30 yrs old for international), simply stating that it was beyond him to determine when someone might find the time to develop their musical talents. In response to one comment in the New Yorker questions area, I would just like to say that it is possible to do this without a patron, I was fortunate to have one in the early years but that changed and thankfully the career took over to pay it's own way. In my case the business training has played a big part, helping me to realize the relationship of being an artist but making my money by being in the 'business'. I'm now in my mid 50's and overjoyed to be faced with the continuing challenges and curiosities that this choice has placed in front of me. Thank you for your article, hopefully it will continue to nourish and encourage may others.


For those interested, Malcolm's latest article for The New Yorker can be found here:


Peter Rademeyer

Dear Malcolm,
Have really enjoyed ready 'The Tipping Point'. Could you please clarify the definition of 'Ur' as used on page 68 "Ur-Maven". Many thanks Peter - South Africa


See http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ur-

Patrick Shaw

Malcolm - I ran into you at the Blue Bottle Coffee shop in San Fran this week - just prior to your presentation at Dreamforce. I just wanted to say hello - it was very fun to have a quick chat about your new book and to have a sneak preview of your remarks at the conference. Glad to know, too, that Canada is your country of origin - I just married a woman from Canada!
-Patrick Shaw


Tim Brown gave a Ted Talk on creativity and play that was released on 11/6/08 on the Ted Talks video podcast (available in podcast).

He talks about "divergent and convergent" forms of creativity. I would say that it closely parallels that of your "experimental and conceptual" idea, but it's different. His talk is probably up your alley.


Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Actually, I never thought MG to be that mighty. But out of all the challenges in front of us, he disects success???

It sounds like a waste to me. But, hell, if it buys him a house in the Hamptons, who am I to judge?

He'll be able to cozy up with all his golf buddies. Priceless.

I do think it smacks of wasted talent.


Good day!

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Dear Malcolm, I really enjoyed your book "Tipping Point". I am a PhD candidate in the field Corporate Entrepreneurship. Next year we are planning to organize an international conference in Hungary, and I wonder if it is possible to invite you as a guest speaker? Please send me an email, if yes :)


Good article, Mr. Gladwell. In support of your precocious/tenacious dichotomy, there are both young gun savants and grizzled old wizards in computer programming. They share many of the same characteristics that you describe. Except that the old timers can often support themselves without a patron...


Interesting article. Have you noticed a difference betwen the offspring of people who put themselves first vs. people who put their offspring first, say staying home with their children until the children are five (Kindergarten age) as opposed to sending them to day care in those first years? My father was a musician who taught in his retirement and noticed that the children who practiced at home and who could focus during the lesson, had one parent, either the mother or the father, who focused on the child, who did not use the lesson as a chance to do errands, and who may have stayed at home. It would be interesting to hear what you think about the mothers and/or fathers of successful people. You touch on it in Outliers with the mother's group that had the insight/alertness to buy a computer for the school and in the example of hard work leading to success that translated from sewing clothes to becoming a doctor or a lawyer among the children and grandchildren of Jewish immigrants. You talked about class differences determining the success or failure of outliers, and as an older mother of a young child I would like to know more about the mothers of the successful outliers, and about what home life was like for them. Thanks for your great book. Enjoying it a lot.

Hannah Neufeld

Dear Malcolm:
I took out your book, "Outliers," from the library. I not only bought that book but a number of your other books, including the one about relationships. I guess that you can now say that you have a "groupie!"


@Maxwell Patterson:
I think everything in this article applies to Mathematicians as well. There is generally a belief that Mathematicians tend to stop producing after they turn 40. But this doesn't really hold up to reality. Two of the most prolific Mathematicians of all time, Euler and Paul Erdos, kept solving problems until the day they died. Abraham Robinson was famous in the fields of logic and dynamics, and published most of the work he's famous for well after he turned 40.

Rachel Greenberg

Mr. Gladwell:

I enjoyed your article on late bloomers very much and have since sent it to a dear friend who has been a struggling/frustrated artist for her entire life (she is 65). I am sure it will give her hope…

I thought this piece went hand-in- hand with Outliers in many ways re success and confirms that no one has it all and/or can reach the pinnacle of success without work, work, work & more work plus supportive people in their lives, which allowes them to focus all of their enegery at the task at hand (their dream, talent, etc.)…

I also found it sobering as well in that we cannot all follow our dreams and talents if we have obligations. I knew this as a young single mother raising an inter-racial child in LA without any support. I was able to land decent jobs supporting CEOs of large corporations and saw first-hand that they could have not reached their level of success without their cheerleaders (supporters) along the way.
I get it about a prodigy. I get it about “late bloomers” in that they were not successful in their youth because they were not yet good enough and needed more practice to perfect their craft. What about those that have the innate talent/prodigy but were never given the opportunity to pursue their talent due to obligation? Have you ever run into someone who later in life gave it a go and found success without years and years and years of practice?


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Jon M. Sloey

I have enjoyed your books.Although I have read them in an about face manner, they all have proven a great deal of insightful information. However I do take differences with you in regards to Paul Revere. What ever Mr. Longfellow would like us to think 90 years after the fact, Mr. Revere did not make the ride. I look forward to your next publication.


I just finished Blink and I cried. As a black female there has been so many instances when I knew I was being judged in a "blink" for all the wrong reasons. I know when its happening and I think... no I did all the right things I went to college, got a grad degree, never been in trouble with the law and I pay my taxes on time all the time, how could this be?? So now im working and hoping that my nieces may have a fair chance.


If I am to be chided for repeating what some others have said, well, let it happen, but "poets peak young" probably because that's the tautology we inflict on them. If they ain't young, well, they probably ain't poets. At least not in this society.

I'm sure some people define beauty as being what young women are, and thus it is fleeting.

Again the acceptable narratives are defined by the society.


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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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