Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Malcolm Gladwell | Part 4 | May 28, 2012 | Appel Salon

Difficulty: 0

Eleanor Wachtel: You said, you're not much interested in politics, but you're obviously

interested in social issues and you said in particular questions of class. Why class?

Malcolm Gladwell: Why am I interested in class? I don't know. I find it really... I think

it's because, if you are an even part English, you have [laughter] a fascination with class

because the English class system is so... But I do this, and I this, I... When I...

Every now and again, I go to England to do book tours and such, and I used to do these

speaking tours and they were... They were organized by these two guys, Richard and John,

who were partners. And Richard and John were both very posh. And so, one of things, I love

to do, when I'm out with lots of English people, is to make them all rank each other according

to their level of poshness because they can all do it, right? [laughter] And it makes

them very uncomfortable, but they kind of like doing it.


MG: So, there was about 10 of them. And so, I said, "Okay, rank yourself. Tell me who's

the poshest and... " So, it was pretty clear that Richard and John were the poshest, but

neither of them wanted... Then they were like, "Well, who's posher of the two of us?" And

neither wanted to be the poshest. So, they started to have an argument in front of us

about who was posher. And Richard said to John, "You are posher because your grandfather's

butler used to pick you up every morning and drive you to Eton in the family Rolls-Royce."

And John said to Richard, "No, you're posher. You grew up in a house with a moat." [laughter]

And that was like...


MG: How awesome is that? That you can live in a society in 2011, this was 2011, where

people are still paying attention to things like, was there a moat around the house you

grew up in? [laughter] So, I mean, who doesn't think this is interesting? And then, also

what's interesting is if you live in New York, especially in America, you realize that America

founded on a repudiation of the British class system, then promptly constructs one of it's

own, which is every bit is, kind of, ridiculous and problematic and... Only American... And

also, it's history is incredibly similar. The British class system is founded on three

things, real estate, inheritance and schools. Schools that no one could get into, right?

What do the Americans do? Well, they cut inheritance taxes to just about zero, so they can resemble...

So that rich people can actually turn themselves into peers essentially, right? So yes, they're

not actually handing down estates in Scotland to each other, they're just handing down...

But there is handing down estates, I mean, the equivalent, modern equivalent.

MG: And they construct a system of schooling which is, this insanely hierarchical privileged

thing where you can get in... Basically, you're guaranteed of getting in only if you, if you're

parents went there or you pay a lot of money, right? Actually, do you know what this is

a... I'm actually so... This is one of the little things that I'm fascinated by. Each

American Ivy League school has a number. And the number is the amount of money you have

to pay, as a parent, to guarantee your child getting into that school. It doesn't matter

how fancy the school is, they all have a number. Now, the number has been rising in recent

years, it used to be quite modest. Now, it's actually quite high. So, whenever I meet someone

who is up in the administration of an Ivy League school, I say, "What's the number up

to?" And they'll all just deny it exists, and hem and haw, then finally, if you kind

of push them on it. Do you know what the number is at Yale, I'm told? 20 million.

EW: Wow!

MG: Now, you all gasp. I think that's too low. [laughter] Look, these people have a

lot of money. Someone's got to take it from them. I would think Yale could be a little

more aggressive then that. These are kids who can't get into Yale on their own power.

So, look you've got them over a barrel, that you have all the... They desperately want

to go to Yale 'cause daddy went to Yale. They're inferior students. Add a zero! See what happens!



MG: Why do they... It's the same thing that... I'm always reminded of this, you know when

you ever read stories about spies? And, there's always this long complicated thing, turns

out that Hugo was spying for the Soviets for 25 years. And then, the punchline, they're

always like "Oh wow, 25 years." Like, he... And he hands it over every top secret, you

know... And you keep reading and then it says, "And in return for handing over every one

of America's top secrets over 25 years, Hugo amassed a fortune of 200,000 dollars." [laughter]

And you think, "Hugo, what's the matter with you? You're sitting on all of the top secrets.

You're giving them away to the enemy and that's all you're asking for?" These guys are morons!

Never once... [laughter] Find me a spy who became a millionaire from spying.

EW: But they're all ideological, it's not... It's not about money. It's not about money.

MG: Oh no, no, they're not ideological. They're disgruntled. [laughter] And then, sometimes...

Very big difference. Although, in America, disgruntled and ideological are the same things.

[laughter] They're not... And they're all... They also, they like the money. But then,

and they always bust them, you know... They say, they bust them because they noticed he

was driving a jag, you know a jaguar, right? And he shouldn't have been on his civil service

salary." That's the best he could do, right? [laughter] Again, it's just failure of imagination

on the part of people who wanna commit great moral crimes. Anyway that ties back into the...


EW: Something.

MG: Yeah I think.

EW: Ties back into something. [chuckle] You talked to in terms of successful people, many

of them are not necessarily a risk-takers. Do you think of yourself as a risk-taker?

MG: No, I don't think. No, not at all. I've worked for a series of Fortune 500 companies.

I've worked for the Washington Post when it was one of the media conglomerates in the

world, and then I moved to The New Yorker magazine which was an even more profitable

media conglomerate. And then, I had my books published by a third even larger media conglomerate.

I have been in the bosom of big business my entire life. [chuckle] There is nothing...

I'm like the Stanford Computer Science PhD. [laughter] I've been gambling other peoples'

money my whole career.

EW: It's great to have a chance to talk to you again. Thank you so much.


EW: We have a bit of time for questions, if you have a question, there is a microphone

in the middle and just come on up.

Speaker 3: Malcolm, lot of people including Warren Buffett say, "The key to success is

hard work." I think Warren Buffett says, "99% perspirations," you know that. How do you

put that in the context of your book, Outliers, where you defined success also is not in your


MG: Yeah.

S3: Primarily it's not in your control.

MG: Well, I do talk in the book about the 10,000-hour rule and this notion of very clearly

that people at the highest levels of achievement are those who have outworked their peers.

But I think the point... One of the points I was trying to make in the book is that the

opportunity to work hard is itself sometimes arbitrarily bestowed on. So, that's why I

spend so much time talking about Canadian hockey players and why people born in the

first half of the year were more likely to end up in the NHL. They worked harder than

their peers, but they were given an opportunity to work harder because of a random fact, because

they were much older than their relative class and stood out at nearly our age and we're

selected out into all-star teams and such. So, I think it's important to understand that,

it takes... If you wanna be a great classical pianist, you have to play an awful lot of

classical piano, but you also need to be wealthy enough to have access to a great teacher and

a piano and the leisure to play the... If you're working part-time jobs to help your

family make ends meet, you can't put in the hours necessary to be a classical pianist.

So, I think we have to understand that, hard work is a function of advantages. The ability

to work hard is a function of advantages.

S3: What comes first, I guess, things that are not in your control.

MG: Well, I think they are together. I think that they are linked in some... It differs

from case-to-case.

S3: Thank you.

Speaker 4: Hi Malcolm. I really enjoy your work for ESPN Grantland. I see that you are

listed as a consulting editor. I'm wondering if you've been consulting on the editing for

the site, if you plan on writing for it again soon.

MG: Oh yeah, I have a friend who is a sports writer in America and I do things with him

and he's started this new website. That's what the question's about. I intend to...

In fact, I'm doing something right now for them, but I... It's just a matter of time.

They are sadly not number one on my list of responsibilities and so... But it's a great

environment to write for because if you write for the Internet, you quickly realize you

can say anything you want, which is such a kind of wonderful... And if you read the Internet,

you realize, how true that is that people [laughter] say anything they want.

Speaker 5: Hi Malcolm. Oops, I'm short here. What I wanted to know is, how do you, on a

personal level, decompress because your mind's always going overtime? Do you like dream and

then... Ideas and then you wake up or just are you able to just to chill, take it easy

and not think so much.


MG: I'm not like this all the time. This was unusual. I mean, I don't... I always, I don't

really work that hard. [laughter] I don't... I just spend... I just kind of wander around

my neighbourhood. So, I have plenty of time to decompress and also I am... I go running

and I don't put in thing. So like that's my time for thinking and I never I... Its more

of the opposite, I have to find ways to look for stimulation as opposed to find ways to

decompress. I think of... When I look at normal peoples' lives, I feel like they are... I

can't imagine how they deal with all of that stimulation. Going into an office, people

talking to you all day, just seems to me kind of overwhelming. I used to go in the office

and I stopped going because it's like, there were so many people. It was... Even going

up in the elevator, it was just like, "Oh my goodness!" [laughter] They come in waves.

Like planes over O'Hare as I like to say. But I'm so... My life is quite quiet.

EW: But you have started going on tour. Like you take "Malcolm Gladwell Live on Tour,"

you did about a year or two... A couple of years ago.

MG: Yeah, but those are...

EW: For public speaking and in theatres, not just the...

MG: Yeah I like public... Public speaking is a different matter because it's... Well,

you, if you're giving a talk, you decide what you're gonna to talk about and it's time limited.

You know, it's all over in 40 minutes, right? So, it's like, it's not open ended, like sometimes...

And it's a... And you get... It's people are seeing you at your best, right? 'Cause you're

prepared and you've thought about what you're saying. So, it's a very different experience

than the kind of unruliness of normal social contact.


S5: Mr. Gladwell, you've got a lot of practical information, you know a lot about winners

and losers, and what makes great entrepreneurs. So, what I would really like to know is how

do you go about picking stocks?


MG: Well, I know nothing about them. I have a friend who is an investment person, and

I often ask her for advice, and she refuses to give me any advice.

EW: As she wants to be your friend.

MG: She... That's well... So, she essentially says, "Just put it under a mattress". [laughter]

So, I don't think that's a... I actually conducted an experiment where I opened one of those

kind of online accounts and I put in some very, very, vanishingly small amount, every

month. And I decided that on a very small level, I would see if I could pick stocks.

And I discovered that, of course, I can't. [laughter] I don't think anybody can by the

way, I think it's all...

S5: Even you have your limits.

MG: What's that?

S5: Even you have your limits.

MG: Yeah, I very much have my limits, yes.


Speaker 6: Hi Malcolm, I'm an educator and I just wanted to know if you have any plans

of writing an entire book on education. I know you spoke about it briefly in one of

your books, I can't remember, I think it's the Outliers. So, I just want to know if you

have any plans on writing it and if you can speak a little bit about public education,

I know it's a big topic, but...

MG: Well, my new... The first two chapters of my new book are on education. They're about

sort of two fallacious mental, or two fallacious theories I think we have about education,

which I think are indicative of the way we misunderstand. I try not to give it away 'cause,

of course, I want you to buy the book. But... [laughter] So, I am returning to it. I think,

I have gotten more interested in education as time gets on. And I am... So yeah, there's

a lot more in this one. Hopefully, that will satisfy your...

S6: Okay, thank you.

MG: Your desire for more.

EW: I'm afraid this is the last question.

Speaker 7: I'm wondering if you went to private school. And the reason that this came to mind

was you were asked about this where you commented on it in the context of race and growing up

in Ontario. And you mentioned that you went to Trinity College at U of T, and you felt

that there was a lot of diversity. And that got me thinking about class which you commented

on later because I also went to Trinity College and that was one of the times when I felt

that there were the most distinctions, but they weren't along race lines, they were along

class lines...

MG: Oh, yeah.

S7: Because almost all of the kids there went to private schools, and the few of us who

went to public schools stood out like sore thumbs.

MG: Yeah. Yeah I was one of the few... I wouldn't say few, I would say, maybe by the time. I

don't know when you were there. When I was there, it was probably, I don't know actually,

was it 50:50, private-public? I don't know, maybe it was more private, but I was part

of that. There was a big distinction on my... I remember on my hall there were like three

of us, public school kids. One of other public school kids on my hall was, actually it's

funny, I had this weird hall at Trinity College. There were three public school kids. Me...

Actually there were four. Me, Nigel Wright, who is now the... Is he still the chief of

staff to Harper? And Jim Balsillie of RIM. [laughter] Those were the... And then, the

rest, most of the others were from much fancier backgrounds.

MG: So yeah, there was a lot of class at Trinity, and it was member and Trinity as you know,

went out of it's way to accentuate its... I mean, we were so busy pretending that we

were a college at Oxford or Cambridge [laughter] that... But mostly it was an attempt to load

it over the other colleges at U of T, right? Yeah, we wanted to... So yeah, it was a strange,

very profoundly... I had fun, but a profoundly strange environment to go to school.

S7: Thank you.

MG: Well, thank you all very much.

EW: Thank you all for coming, Malcolm will be signing books.


Paula de Ronde: 50 celebration, one of our commemorative books, Jamaicans in Canada:

When Ackee Meets Codfish, and Malcolm is in that book. And then, I'll ask Mr. Joe Halstead,

with the other co-chair of the Jamaica 50 celebration to present one of our beautiful

bouquet of flowers to Eleanor.


The Description of Malcolm Gladwell | Part 4 | May 28, 2012 | Appel Salon