“If you work hard enough, and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires” ~ a quote from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This was the mindset of the early Jewish immigrants who can to New York City in at the beginning of the twentieth century. They were primarily tradesmen who specialized in the clothing industry and similar trades which soon became the single largest industry in the City at that time. According the Gladwell these people were poised at the perfect time in history to take advantage of several key factors including the high demand for the skills they had to offer, tremendous growth in the population, and the abilities needed to pursue independent business operations. They were creators and innovators and entrepreneurs. And yes they may have worked hard and made only a little money but they were happy. They were the ones shaping their worlds and creating their futures both for themselves and for their future generations. Their children and grandchildren followed this path and eventually became the most successful doctors and lawyers of their respective times.
Knowledge is intoxicating. Once you begin to steep yourself in it you become absorbed with learning more. You want to know everything there is to know about . . . well everything! However, what really sets people apart and makes them successful and perhaps even more importantly is the ability to create. This seems to be one of the ways that humans were made in the image of God as Genesis tells us. God’s overflow of His own happiness, or perhaps His expression of His own joy that he found in himself (according to John Piper) revealed itself in creation. Look at the great men of the Bible. Joseph creatively and innovatively managed to stave off a terrible famine saving both his family and his adopted country. Noah created an enormous ark which was quite the laughing stock of his time but based on God’s forewarning turned out to save humanity from utter destruction. Paul created church after church, toiling harder than anyone (in his own words), to make his dream a reality. He worked hard, harder than enough. He asserted himself amongst the top leaders of his day. He used his mind and knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. He used his imagination to creatively connect old and new theology into a practical relevant message. And he shaped his world to his desires spreading the gospel to thousands perhaps millions of people.
However, it seems that first to be creative we need knowledge. This is what sets apart Thomas Edison from your neighbor who is trying to get rich off his newest invention. Your neighbor probably doesn’t like working very much. He’s rather chill at the bar with his friends. But that takes money. So “inventing” something seems like an easy way to make some money. You may give him an amused nod of approval as he rants about his latest bright idea. You may even show genuine appreciation for a new tool he creates to make mowing your lawn more efficient. But you will never see his products at Lowe’s or Home Depot. You will never read about him a hundred years later in your kid’s high school history books. In fact, if you move away from him you will probably at best remember him as a bemusing individual whom you may laugh about with your friends over a beer or use as an illustration of laziness for your kids.
You see Edison spent thousands hours on his invention. And he started from the ground up. He didn’t start thinking “how can I invent something to provide light for my house without using fire?” He started with a profound desire to know and to understand natural phenomenon around him. Which led to his understanding of electricity. Which, 10,000 hours later, led to his invention of the light bulb. Which you can still find a hundred years later on the shelves of . . . just about anywhere.
Success doesn’t come from tinkering around with ideas and bouncing them off your friends over coffee or musing over them on your bed late at night (after spending most of the evening talking about the guy you like or the house you will one day own or watching your favorite drama on television). You don’t learn how to make a woman happy by tinkering with the idea of dating. Going out with one or two. Talking to your mom about why you can’t understand girls and repeating to your buddy canned phrases such as “women! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!” The magic number for being an expert at something is 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours not of tinkering and or thinking about a hundred different ideas, but of hard work gaining knowledge from those experts who have lived over many generations and done the same thing. You can’t decide the fate of the universe and convince me you are right because you spend 200 hours reading articles on the internet and a couple Tim Lahaye books and Revelation and now consider yourself an expert. You’re not. Spend 6 hours a day for the next five years reading everything you can get your hands on, and then maybe you can say you have mastered such philosophy.
And before one can truly be creative, one has to start with becoming an expert, with mastering something on which to build creativity. Otherwise you’ll be just like this post. Simply reformulating or even worse parroting the ideas of someone else because you never took the time to master those ideas in order to create new ones. (This post is quite honestly the abridging and repackaging of Malcolm Gladwell’s much researched and highly recommended work in three separate books [The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers] which undoubtedly took him hours of dedicated work and yet all narrows down to this one profound statement “the small things matter, a great deal more than we give them credit” – more on this later).