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Ideas From Outliers: The Story of Success And Their Application To Jiu Jitsu

Ideas From Outliers: The Story of Success And Their Application To Jiu Jitsu


Applying the Lessons from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers to Jiu Jitsu...

Everyone in Jiu Jitsu may have a different journey, goals and reasons for training. Some of us never aspire to compete in the UFC, EBI or ADCC. However, we all are united by the fact that we want amazing technique. In this article we will explore the big lessons from this Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal work, Outliers.  We will then seek to apply these lessons to Jiu Jitsu.

Outliers: The Story of Success was written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In this box, Malcolm explores the components of high levels of success. He explores examples ranging from Bill Gates, Microsoft’s cofounder, the Beatles, Christopher Langan and J. Robert Oppenheimer and others.

The first big idea from Outliers is around mentors. Malcolm cites examples of the importance of choosing your mentors carefully. He also argues that you should not rely on your mentor for growth but seek personal ownership for the desired change.

In Jiu Jitsu there are myriad of applications to this.  A first application around choosing mentors may be on the style of Jiu Jitsu you want to learn. An interest in rubber guard may provide a different set of mentors than other styles of Jiu Jitsu. Beyond that, teaching ability may be a component. You may have an extremely knowledgeable professor that is unable to articulate technique. Choosing a mentor is extremely personal with many considerations.

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The other component in mentorship that Gladwell argues is to take ownership. Just don’t come to class and consider that is enough. Setting goals for your training, seeking feedback, refining your training structure and watching videos are all possible examples of taking ownership.

The second big idea of the book is practice. Malcolm argues that practice, not raw talent, is what differentiates the amateurs from the professionals. He advocates a 10,000 hour rule to become a master in something.  Obviously, the guy who trains 2 or 3 times a week is not going to see the same level of growth as the guy who trains 2 or 3 times a day. Certainly, practice at your gym is best but it is possible to augment that practice at home: Do solo drills or Get a grappling dummy. 

The third big idea is passion versus discipline. Passion will only take us so far. It takes discipline to achieve sufficient practice time. While mat time is one important example of showing discipline it is not the only opportunity we have to exercise disciple and foster growth. It takes disciple to set concrete goals, seek feedback, structure our training and organize our opportunities.

By applying the lessons of Outliers, we find that by finding the right mentors, taking ownership of our education, practice and discipline we are able to obtain key components of mastery. This is true in Jiu Jitsu and almost everything else in life.

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