Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You (Don't) Get What You (Don't) Ask For ...

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers these days.

I was about to give up on it because I thought he was rehashing the premise over and over and while I might be a little thick-skulled of late, I was pretty sure that I had gotten his point, that vast circumstances set up the possibility of success for some (like being born at the right time to come of age at the right time to be part of a cultural shift) and that the absence of those circumstances thwart the success of others.

But I kept reading tonight, and now, I'm really glad I did.

One of his premises is that part of what makes some successful (and others not) is cultural behavior. But it doesn't simply stem back to your parents or grandparents. Behaviors of those who came long before us affect who we are today.

In the section I just finished, the gist of the lesson is that you have to communicate clearly what you need, that allowing oneself to be intimidated can lead to disastrous results.

And my mind wandered to Nikola Tesla. I've mentioned before that I'm related to him, but in reading Gladwell's book, tonight I connected our dots in a different way: Tesla was a brilliant man. He was responsible for some of the most life-changing inventions in history. He should have been more famous than Thomas Edison. Instead, he is much less well known and died virtually penniless. And from what I've read about him, that's largely due to the fact that he wasn't assertive enough.

Which is absolutely one of my biggest issues. I almost never ask for what I need from people personally and I certainly haven't been assertive professionally.

I haven't gotten to the end of Gladwell's book just yet, but I'm thinking that the point of this installment is to make us aware of how our circumstances shape us, not to give us excuses but to give us the knowledge to overcome those circumstances and thrive in spite of them.

How exciting is that?


Blogger Mercurie said...

Wow, Beth. I am impressed. Have I ever told you Tesla is one of my heroes!

At any rate, I definitely agree. I think Tesla would have been much more famous (and rightfully regarded as the inventor of radio) had he simply been more assertive. Of course, I think it is possible for someone to go to the opposite extreme. Those who are too assertive aren't very well remembered either!

9:44 PM  

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