Malcolm Gladwell on Gretzky, Jordan, and getting hit on by bartenders Matt 02 Mar 2006

11 comments Latest by Tony

Who knew Malcolm Gladwell was such a sports freak? Sports Guy Bill Simmons (whom Gladwell calls “far and away the best sportswriter in America”) email interviews Gladwell at ESPN.com today. It’s refreshing to read Gladwell in a less stiff format. Btw, Gladwell’s also writing a blog now.

How did Gladwell learn to write so well? He says it’s because he does what he loves.

I really love writing, in a totally uncomplicated way. When I was in high school, I ran track and in the beginning I thought of training as a kind of necessary evil on the way to racing. But then, the more I ran, the more I realized that what I loved was running, and it didn’t much matter to me whether it came in the training form or the racing form. I feel the same way about writing. I’m happy writing anywhere and under any circumstances and in fact I’m now to the point where I’m suspicious of people who don’t love what they do in the same way…They say that Wayne Gretzky, as a 2-year-old, would cry when the Saturday night hockey game on TV was over, because it seemed to him at that age unbearably sad that something he loved so much had to come to end, and I’ve always thought that was the simplest explanation for why Gretzky was Gretzky.

On why he prefers baseball when it’s played in his imagination:

I think that reading you on the Red Sox is more fun than actually watching the Red Sox. And before anyone objects, I would point out that there are lots of other human experiences that fall into this category. When you hear a ghost story as a child, or watch a war movie, or read a particularly powerful novel, you don’t want to be in the story. You don’t even want to be in the stands when the war is going on or the ghost is scaring the bejesus out of people. What you want is to be told the story. Right?

11 comments so far (Jump to latest)

LukeP 02 Mar 06

Very insightful comments, especially the second quote block - I’ve understood this some time but never saw it in words.

Tony 02 Mar 06

Great find!

Caleb Buxton 02 Mar 06

Another quality Canadian Export.

Tipping point is a must read.

Blink makes my psychologist step mom kind of frustrated because he doesn’t cite much of his non-original material very well.

Travis 02 Mar 06

Finding something you love to do, as much as Gretzky loves hockey, is really the key. Translating it into a career is quite tough though.

Thanks for the link.

samc 02 Mar 06

I agree, Caleb. I LOOOOOOVED reading both of those books but the amount of anecdotal evidence was a little scary. still a good read though.

Jay Contonio 02 Mar 06

I think that reading you on the Red Sox is more fun than actually watching the Red Sox.

Sorry, I would much rather be watching the Redsox (more than anything else really).

MySpace Codes 02 Mar 06

I agree with Travis. Finding what you really love to do is the key. Turning it into profits is even better. But, never ask for much. Money isn’t everything in life. The books are really good.

Farhan Lalji 03 Mar 06

I would have killed to be at the bar with those two.

Jeff 03 Mar 06

I’m actually questioning the “object in living is to unite / My avocation and my vocation / As my two eyes make one in sight” whole idea. Yes, it’s great to do what you love, but once it becomes the way you provide for yourself and your family, there will come a time when you discover that *you do not love it anymore.* Because it’s no longer something you get to do, but something you have to do.

I say this as a man who loves to write, but is procrastinating with a mad desperation because I have a deadline about to whoosh past.

ML 03 Mar 06

Part 2 of the interview is up and it’s full of more good stuff. Some excerpts:

Is it just the coach? Or should we also think about the other players? The big insight in child psychology recently has been, for instance, that parents matter less in how we turn out than we think and peers matter more. That doesn’t mean I don’t think coaches are critical; they are. But I think we underestimate the role that teammates and peers can play. I think Larry Brown, for instance, got way too much credit in Detroit. The Pistons’ success is a peer effect. The core of that team, I suspect, is just incredibly grounded and mutually supportive, and something about the combination of players that Dumars put together brings out the best in all of them. How can you play on a team with Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton and not try hard?…

When I asked an Ivy league admissions officer why the SAT is such a lousy predictor of how good a student is going to end up being, he said to me (memorably): “People take the SAT when they’re 18. When you’re 18, we can’t even predict what you’re going to be like three hours from now.”…

The point is that knowledge and the ability to make a good decision correlate only sporadically, and there are plenty of times when knowledge gets in the way of judgement…

The effect of working for a bureaucratic organization is to enforce a level of accountability in decision making, and the need for accountability generally biases decisions in an conservative direction…

Tony 03 Mar 06

The core of that team, I suspect, is just incredibly grounded and mutually supportive, and something about the combination of players that Dumars put together brings out the best in all of them. How can you play on a team with Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton and not try hard?

I think this is one of the most important points from the piece with regards to small teams, and something you guys have addressed on this blog in the past.

If your team is 3 people, and you add a fourth, they can (and probably will) completely change the dynamic of the team environment — hopefully for the better.

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