Success = Luck + Hard Work

OutliersWell as we know it, success in any profession is all about hard work and more hard work and on top of that even more hard work. Very successful people be it John D Rockefeller or Bill Gates are  known for their determination and their ability to work hard. But is that really it? Just hard work? I mean there are millions of people around the globe who work really hard(and I am not talking about manual labor) but could never get even close to being a Carnegie or Rockefeller. So what is the secret formula that successful people knew back then and know now to always get what they want? Think about it.

How will you react if I just say that these people who accumulated so much wealth and success were just lucky? I hear you calling for my head but if you believe the ‘facts’ presented by Mr. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers“, you might just change your opinion about success.

Outliers is a finely written, fluent and a very quick read. Once you start reading, it is very tough to put it down. Before going further let me congratulate the author for a very entertaining book and compelling story telling. Now lets talk about the book.

In outliers the author has selected few very successful people from a variety of profession like Software Engineering, Law, Entrepreneurship and presented their account with the factors that contributed in their success. These factors can be anything ranging from date of birth to their schools and to their family back grounds. Yes even date of birth. For example the software revolution. He says

The perfect age to be in 1975, in other words, is old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you missed it. Ideally you want to be twenty and or twenty-one, which is to say, born in 1954 or 1955.

And then Mr. Gladwell presents the list of some people we know well with their date of births as follows:

Bill Gates: Oct 28, 1955

Paul Allen: Jan 21, 1953

Steve Ballmer: March 24, 1956

Steve Jobs: Feb 24, 1955

Eric Schmidt: April 27, 1955

It is not difficult to analyze that they were more or less the lucky beneficiaries of software revolution. They were born just at the perfect time when everything was just starting and of course there is no denying that they were all extremely hard working people and intelligent enough. Hard work here is by default.

Now the question arises of intelligence. The IQ band wagon. The author argues though a certain level of intelligence is expected but IQ is not as important as “Being born at the right place”, “Being at right place at right time” is. In support of his argument the author presents the account of genius Chirs Langan. Well Chirs has a IQ of over 190. Which is seriously high.(Einstein was around 150) So a guy with this kind of intelligence must be very successful. If money is measure of success well he is not at all successful. He lives in a farm and takes care of his animals. The book is filled with a lot of interesting facts and stories like the same. I loved the book up to this point.

Last three chapters are not very compelling, particularly the presented relation between Chinese rice fields and math.

My rating : This book should not be confused with a self help book because it is not. There are no advices or plans presented in Outliers. This is a collection of fascinating stories and witty presentation. Read it for fun.


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The Mythical Man-Month

I am currently reading software classic “The Mythical Man- Month” by Frederick Brooks. It has a great collection of essays  on software project management. Each essay offers an insight into the craft of software engineering. It was suggested as a must read on almost every software forum so I thought of giving it a go and so far I am loving it.

The author explains the joys and frustration of a programmer in the first chapter. He compares the art of a programmer to the art of a poet by saying:

The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from the pure thought stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air creating by exertion of the imagination.

Feels great! Doesn’t it? Then he chooses to slap us with reality by writing something like this:

Designing grand concepts is fun; finding nitty little bug is just work. With every creative activity come dreary hours of tedious, painstaking labor, and programming is no exception.

Next chapter is where the book has gotten its name from. It confirms the Brook’s law:

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

The author uses his humor very well in explaining that there are some sequential tasks that can not be partitioned. For example, training for the newly added man power in the new project or the time taken by them to be productive in the new environment, is going to take a certain amount of time no matter how many people are assigned for this task. He drops a funny quote:

The bearing of the child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned.

In the third chapter, a comparison has been drawn between large and small teams. The author emphasizes the need of clearly defined goals for each of the member of the team so that they can be more productive in their work. Teams must be smaller say for example instead of 4 teams of 50 each, there can be 20 teams of 10 each. Surgical Teams. These 20 teams will have a chief per team and the communication will be the responsibility of chiefs. First, all the chiefs will discuss, plan and divide the work  later they can discuss the work in their respective teams.

So far so good. Will be updating as I go through …

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Can a programming paradigm be influenced by political philosophy?

I was going through this blog (rant about the things the author did not like in OOPS). It was an interesting post and i liked it very much. In the comment section there was usual debate over what is better than the rest then i came across a comment which gave a completely new direction to the discussion. Gentleman named Tim Lee came up with something like this:

Nygaard(Co-Inventor of OOP) drew his inspiration from Marxist ideology and regarded OOP as a means of advancing socialism through the medium of computer programming. The theoretical underpinning of OOP is the philosophical foundation of Marxism, so if you want to understand what OOP is, study dialectical materialism.

Fascinating stuff. Even if this does not have any credibility, I will give him the credit to compare two seemingly unrelated things. How a political philosophy can be a source of inspiration to a whole new and the most influential programming paradigm so far, is really something that can give you a little to ponder about. Why did he do that? What was his intention behind it? Was he a promoter of Marxism? and many more .. if you really care. If it is true I would like to see him as an artist who had a hidden message in his poem/painting/story and all we need is Robert Langdon to decipher it for us🙂

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