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So, Malcolm Gladwell has (in)famously accredited The Beatles’s success to the fact that they put in 10,000 hours of practice while they were in Liverpool and touring in Germany. It’s a nice, tidy idea but it isn’t correct. In fact, they were also very talented. In fact, they were also persistent. In fact, they had more than their fair share of arrogance.

To quote the article:

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Arrogance—a kind of foolish, adolescent self-belief; an ignorant, intuitive certainty that your way is the right way—is the root of all great art.

If you read the article linked above (and if you’re a creative person working in a creative field, you should) you learn about the times The Beatles were turned down standard opportunities. The biggest was the offer to record their first song, something someone else had written, but they insisted on “Love Me Do”. Because of that (and a million other choices) they became The Beatles.

However, one thing the article dances around but never explicitly lays out: They were a group of friends. It wasn’t just one person, struggling away at their art. They supported each other, taught each other, and listened to each other when one of the others said they should stand firm.

How many times has a proto-John Lennon found himself among dilettantes, their passion to create slowly undermined by the fact that no one in their circle shares it? How many of those people get discouraged, give up and find jobs at insurance companies or whatever?

That’s why it’s important to have a circle of friends who are passionate about the same things you are and who are creating that you think is amazing. Foolish self-belief is a delicate bubble for most rational people, and it helps to have a community around you to help protect it, because the world is full of people who want to shred the happy arrogance of creative people.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
seawasp
Nov. 22nd, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
They were also just plain lucky. As a band, there were plenty of others just as good, or even better, just as there were and are writers as good as J.K. Rowling.

Luck plays a HUGE part in the big hits, and it's not predictable or controllable.
burger_eater
Nov. 22nd, 2013 03:31 pm (UTC)
Of course they were lucky, but you can "control" luck. You can't determine ahead of time that you'll get this or that lucky break, but you can approach situations in a way that invites lucky happenstance.
sartorias
Nov. 22nd, 2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
A group of similarly believing friends is awesome, but over the years I have seen groups of friends whose mutual admiration far exceeded their actual talent.
burger_eater
Nov. 22nd, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
As long as they don't become a honey trap for people who might improve with more conscious effort, I'm for it.

But yeah. "You're so brilliant the public just doesn't understand you" is poison.

Edited at 2013-11-22 07:51 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
burger_eater
Nov. 23rd, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm not much of a Beatles fan. I just thought the article was instructive.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )