Is there room for Ambition AND Balance?
Posted by Amy Wilson on January 5, 2009
When I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I had several self-revelations. Deliberate practice and mindset were among them. But there is another thread that keeps haunting me. Gladwell’s definition of success is extreme success (mastery, really) and my cultural legacy values balance. Are these two things at odds with eachother? Is it possible to be a master at something and have “a life”?
Consider Gladwell’s assertions of the American legacy:
“early education reformers were also tremendously concerned that children not get too much schooling … In the education journals of the day, there were constant worries about overtaxing students or blunting their natural abilities through too much schoolwork.”
Gladwell then connects this value system to the agricultural requirements of the American landscape. Wheat and cornfields had to be left fallow every once in awhile or they would become exhausted. Thus, in order to cultivate young minds, they must have plenty of time to rest. This is the diametric opposite of East Asian agriculture in which rice paddies were cultivated continuously. According to Gladwell, this translated to a culture of work.
Thing is, even after reading it and finding it logical (and promising forever more to always vote for year-round schooling in the Oakland public school district), I still believe in my heart that I need balance and balance is better. That’s how deep my legacy is. Gladwell argues that you can overcome your legacy. But do I want to? Is it ok to be ambitious up to a point?