As I'm writing this on the outdoor terrace of an offbeat coffee shop in the Eastern Market of Washington, D.C., I'm reflecting on all that has happened in my life thus. And, trust me, a lot has in my 19 years.
From teaching myself computer programming in three days to now being able to tell the stories of my underdog past as a result of it, I owe a considerable amount of my success over these past couple of months to one person: Malcolm Gladwell.
The inspiration all started from growing up in the Midwest. You see, my weeknights weren't necessarily filled with beach visits, feasting at extravagant restaurants, or even bowling (there's nothing comparable to the addictive atmosphere of California's Lucky Strikes to those in southern Ohio). Nope, they were filled with excessive studying and watching The Charlie Rose Show nightly on PBS.
On the program, Charlie Rose often spoke about this foreign idea of "10,000 hours of practice" with guests amongst the likes of Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. While the idea is somewhat old hat today, I remember revering the concept as a wide-eyed 14-year-old that he was trying to be conveyed; It takes sickening work ethic to be exceptional no matter who you are. And even though, he hints at this idea of luck and being at the right place at the right time as a common line, I grew inspired by his ideology that work ethic can overpower any of that.
The definitive moment that truly changed my life came after high school when I read Gladwell's Outliers for the first time. At the time, I was going through that all-too-familiar depression of getting older; that phase where your friends change and become distant. I took it hard, then began to go down this spiral of self-deprecating analysis, in which, I attempted to find everything that was wrong with myself. The book became my saving grace. Because, in that moment, the paradigm shifted from using everything that I considered a disadvantage being that of an advantage. Although I didn't know it at the time, what I would soon discovered was that what made me different would make me unique in the long run. This is true for everyone.
But what did happen in the long run seemed to be something ripped straight from Malcolm Gladwell's reference material. You see, during my freshman year of college, I had an idea to create an iPhone application based on conversations that I've had with my roommate, but I didn't even know where to begin. I'd never studied computer science a day in my life (I'm currently pursuing an Economics degree) and the closest I've ever came to the subject was an ongoing obsession with the film, The Social Network.
When I was ready to create the app, I contacted over a hundred college professors from around the world and they had all told me the same thing -- it couldn't be done. Some purported the reason to be that it would take years for me to learn the programming, while others contributed the inability to create such an app to my youth.
I ended up teaching myself in just three days.
I soon realized that since I had faced so much adversity in my teenage years that there truly was a psychological break when it came to being told "No." I couldn't take it anymore. And, in a sort of ambitious rebellion, I pushed my mind to its bounds and did something that no one thought I could; that I never thought I could do. And what was the book that I read as some sort of ritual right before I started the journey towards the impossible?
You've guessed it, Outliers.
So now today, I've been given the opportunity to share my own stories of triumph with all of you through this platform and I can only hope that I'm able to inspire and lift you up as Malcolm Gladwell has done for myself. In just seeing his name, I get this surge of intellectual inspiration as his books have become soul-elevating stories bounded by scientific proof. Malcolm Gladwell is the preeminent storyteller that I dream of becoming.
But, as I'm finishing this article (still at that offbeat cafe), I look forward to picking up Malcolm's latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giant. I have yet to read it, but I'm sure it will resonate with me on a spiritual level as always because it's true that we are all in control of our own lives. You may not believe it now, but we were given certain traits and characteristics that are there to only help us rise to our fullest potential. And the sooner you begin to serve your authentic self for all its worth, the sooner you will understand what your true purpose is for this lifetime.
Don't you just love how a good Gladwell book can change your life. I know it changed mine.
Tywan Wade is currently a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Read more about him in Impossible Dreams: The Story of Discovering My Superpowers.