Just watched Malcolm Gladwell give a talk to the New Yorker Conference—2012: Stories From the Near Future (lots of interesting videos to watch). The topic of Malcolm's talk is 'genius' and he contrasts two extraordinary men: Michael Ventris, who deciphered the ancient Mycenaean script know as Linear B, and Andrew Wiles, the mathematician who developed a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem (If you are interested to learn about the story of how Wiles accomplished his proof I recommend you read Simon Singh's Fermat's Last Theorem).
Gladwell makes two good points in his talk:
- persistence and collaboration might be more important personal traits than lone genius in a complex and changing world; and
- a person needs to invest 10,000 hours of concentrated and reflective practice to achieve mastery—this amounts to about 10 years.
I was also impressed with how Gladwell told his stories from the point of view of the level of detail he provides—i.e., lots. He's not an emotional storyteller but one who is effective in sparking interest in an intellectual idea.