Success: The Rest of the Story

In his fascinating new book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell makes a strong case that people owe their success to a lot more than IQ.  He reviews data and offers convincing cases to show that above an IQ in the neighborhood of 110-115, IQ fails as a predictor of success in a career.  In other words, you need to be smart enough to handle the cognitive complexity of the information you need for a given role or job, be it engineering, law, medicine, or business. That’s the IQ around 115. But after reaching that threshold of “smart enough,” your intellect makes little difference.»

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Flame Out

At last there’s a way to cool down before we flame online; those folks at Google have come up with a remedy for emotional hijacks at the keyboard.

A “flame” occurs when we’re a bit agitated – frustrated, anxious, jealous, emotionally desperate – and compose an email, hit “Send” … and regret having sent it.

This happens particularly often online, as I’ve explained in Social Intelligence, because the brain circuitry that kicks in to keep us from embarrassing ourselves while face-to-face on the phone with someone gets no signals online.  The result has been called the “disinhibition” effect; what gets disinhibited is our emotional impulses.»

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Good Work!

What’s the connection between our work and leading a good life?

Howard Gardner and I (we’ve known each other since our grad school days) had the chance to explore this question when we got together near Cambridge for a taped conversation (you can listen in on Good Work: Aligning Skills and Values, available from We explored the implications of Howard’s recent research, done with William Damon at Stanford and Mike Csikszentmihalyi, famous for his studies of “flow.” The team has been studying the ways in which people are able to combine excellence in their job with expressing their values – what they call “good work” (see their website,»

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What’s Your Emotional Style?

Who among us has not gotten upset by an argument, an unsettling talk with our boss, or a bad grade?

And have you noticed that some of us get over these troubling encounters quickly, while others sulk or fume for a long time?

Just why people some people are better at recovery than others, and what that says about their brain function, was explained to me by Richard Davidson, the director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. Richie, as I’ve known him for years, was a graduate student with me long ago, and I’ve often written about his groundbreaking neuroscience research in my books.»

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Leadership: Social Intelligence is Essential

I’ve long argued that outstanding leadership requires a combination of self-mastery and social intelligence. What’s the difference? Self-mastery refers to how we handle ourselves; for those familiar with my model of emotional intelligence, self-mastery breaks down into self-awareness and self-control.

The leadership competencies that build on self-mastery include self-confidence, the drive to improve performance, staying calm under pressure, and a positive outlook. All these abilities can be seen at full force, for instance, in workers who are outstanding individual performers. The operative word here is “individual” – and that’s the rub. When it comes to leaders, effectiveness in relationships makes or breaks.»

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Does America Need More Neighborhood Pubs?

A recent comparison of the mental and physical health of Americans and Britons raises some intriguing questions. Consider these data points:

  • Americans spend 2.5 more on health care than do Brits – yet have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.
  • The richest, healthiest Americans are as sick as the poorest Brits.
  • Americans work far longer than Brits (and other Europeans), and are more likely to hold two jobs – virtually unheard of in Britain.

In searching for explanations, the focus goes to the fact that Americans seem to value wealth and work over social connections, in the view of a British epidemiology team, led by Sir Michael Marmot at the University College London Medical School.»

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Getting Connected

In Social Intelligence I noted longterm trends that signal a gradual corrosion of opportunities for people to connect – networks of friendships shrinking, families spending less time together, a decline in social gatherings. Though many of us sense this trend toward a loss of connection, the data tracking it has been piecemeal.

Now that’s about to change. The National Conference on Citizenship, a group dedicated to promoting civic ties, is going to track how engaged with each other people are, as part of what it calls a “Civic Health Index.” The Index will track 40 key civic indicators measuring levels of political activity, civic knowledge, volunteering, trust, and charitable giving – in part, a measure of our collective social intelligence.»

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Tech and Touch

There was a revealing moment at the third annual “All Things Digital” conference, a gathering of super-techies, featuring digerati luminaries like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. As speakers took the stage, the dimness of the ballroom hall was illumined by the ghostly glow of laptop screens — attendees were using the building’s WiFi to check their e-mail and surf the Web even while presenters spoke.

Those glued to their screen were in what one called a state of “continuous partial attention,” a mental blurriness induced by an overload of information inputs from the speakers, the other people in the room, and the glow of their laptop screens.»

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Email With Care

As I was in the final throes of getting a book into print, a woman at my publisher sent me an email that stopped me in my tracks.

I had met her just once, at a meeting. We were having an email exchange about some crucial detail, which I thought was being worked out well. Then she wrote: “It’s difficult to have this conversation by email. I sound strident and you sound exasperated.”

I was shocked to hear that I sounded exasperated.

But once she had named this snag in our communications, I realized that, indeed, there was something really “off.”

So we had a phone call that cleared everything up in a few minutes, ending on a friendly note.»

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