My Surprisingly Strong Rebuttal to Saul


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    On #3, you wouldn’t be wrong that business schools bring in a lot of money to universities, but you have to remember that right now most universities are engaged in a game of crying “Oh-my-god-we’re-so-poor! Please-give-us-more-money-kids!” States are paying less and universities want to jack up tuition, so the numbers get fudged. Here, in Canada, the scam is they claim to be frugal on their operating budget, while not making their capital budget public. But plenty of them are pitting their departments against one another for limited funds with a bunch of crapola about how poor they all are- while increasing the rate of tuition and bloating the size of their administrative structure (and their own pensions).Report

    • Avatar dhex says:

      #3 hinges on what kind of funding model the institution follows. in a everyone sups from the same trough model, business and psych and (to a lesser degree) education and bio tend to prop up the rest of the school because that’s where most of the majors are. in a you eat what you kill model (and the many variations on it) it depends; business may bring in 3x the undergrads compared to other majors, but they also get 3x (or more) money out of it.

      the latter model isn’t so much at the expense of other programs but it’s certainly not necessarily going to help them.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    “My surprisingly strong rebuttal to Saul”

    If you don’t say so yourself. 😉

    1. I concede the point that I was using the popular definition than the academic definition.

    2. The reason I am still going back and forth on starting my own firm is very complicated but I bet it can basically boil down to a fear of failure and everyone telling me that they want me to without ever trying to answer any of (what I see) as my very valid questions and concerns. Those concerns being: Where am I going to get the money for malpractice insurance? Where am I going to get the money to lease office space and equipment? (Because no one will be fooled if I turn my Aprtment number into a “suite” number). Plaintiff’s lawyers fund their cases upfront: Where am I going to get all the money for mandatory court fees, depositions, experts, etc. There are companies that do finance plaintiff lawyers but not until you have a proven track record and that track record doesn’t come as easily as it used to (old timers always tell me that they cut their teeth on car accident cases worth 2000-5000 dollars and by going to firms and saying “give me your losers!”. The best of them admit that these are no longer options because of changes to the profession in the 80s and 90s). The truth is that the best firms are founded by people who were at least associates for a few years if not partners.

    3. This not quite what I am saying. What I am talking about is what is the purpose of college and university. Who or what is it for?

    I don’t think anyone except university presidents and upper-level admins (and maybe unconsciously students and parents if the Uni Presidents are right) disagrees with the proposition about university tuition being out of control and that the ROI might not be worth it for much longer. The question then becomes what reforms do we institute to lower the cost of tuition or make it possible to give people middle-class and upper-middle class lives without a university degree.

    This then goes to who should go to university and college and who should not and why people are going. Are people going to gain intellectual knowledge and specialization? Are they going because they see a university degree as a necessary credential/piece of paper to get a well-paying job? Both? Is there a difference in majors between people who answer yes to question #1 and answer yes to question #2?

    I would love to live in a world where more Americans believed in the importance of affordable tuition and university budgets were not just another point for the culture war. This is not the world I live in. And it does seem unconscionable to ask people to spend tens or hundreds of thousands on a university education just to get a chance at getting a decent job. The most obvious reform to me is that stuff like Supply Chain Management and Accounting and Finance and Business, Fashion branding and merchandizing, etc. are probably better taught through apprenticeships and some classes rather than a whole university department.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      “…everyone telling me that they want me to [start my own firm] without ever trying to answer any of (what I see) as my very valid questions and concerns. Those concerns being: Where am I going to get the money for malpractice insurance? Where am I going to get the money to lease office space and equipment? (Because no one will be fooled if I turn my Aprtment number into a “suite” number). Plaintiff’s lawyers fund their cases upfront: Where am I going to get all the money for mandatory court fees, depositions, experts, etc.”

      Who is telling you to start a firm without answering those questions? If people are genuinely doing that, they do not have your best interests at heart. My hunch is that if people ARE telling you to push forward, they assume you have at least the basic funding (e.g., renting office space) to consider such a move. If you don’t have even that, you shouldn’t even be entertaining the idea. I mean, saying, “I want to start a business,” when you have zero dollars in your pocket is just a silly thing to say.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        My mom for one really wants me to start my own practice and basically thinks I might not have any other options.

        Tod and Burt have both have said they want/hope I will start my own practice.

        Part of the whole law-school crisis/explosion in the legal industry involved academics and lawyers who made it that young grads should just hang up their own shingle.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I am also debt adverse. So they idea of borrowing money and then failing and owing debts without any means to pay them back freaks me the hell out even if I am only borrowing from relatives.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        But how many of those people know the specifics of your financial situation?

        If someone says to me, “I’m thinking of starting my own business,” I assume they have more than lint in their pockets. I assume they got at least some startup capital or a reasonable means of procuring it.

        I mean, if someone says, “I’m considering signing up for next month’s marathon,” don’t we typically assume they’ve done some running in the past month?Report

      • FWIW, I know the back stories of exactly two people who founded relatively successful firms that now employ between 8 and 20 attorneys each. Both got their starts the exact same way, one in the late 80s, the other in the mid 2000s. In both cases, they were unemployed after graduation or within a few years thereof. What they each did was put their name on the public defender lists for their local courts. This wasn’t going to make rhem rich, but it helped them each get by and start making the connections they needed to eventually find business partners, etc. Only one of the firm’s they started was a crim defense firm; the other was a plaintiffs firm for quite awhike, though it’s now evplved.

        None of which is to say that this route will work for you. I also certainly know people who have failed miserably. Just pointing out that it’s more realistic than you might assjme.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Did one of them change his name to Saul Goodman?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        no business runs without debt, it’s called leveraging your current assets against future returns.

        But you do actually have to do the math, to realize whether you’re going to go up in flames or not. Congratulations! you’ve already passed the first test, which is realizing that there is a possibility of failure.

        Now, how can you evaluate your odds of success?

        It seems that you have ambiguity on both the Input (loans) and Output (will someone please pay me?) sides.

        Ambiguity on the Input side is probably fairly easy to resolve with conversation, although you might have to put your foot down on the “don’t say you love me, so loan returns don’t matter.” (aside: if they really don’t, just treat it as a gift).

        Ambiguity on the Output side deals with two issues: Can you find customers? and Will you provide value to them?

        Can you find customers? — if this is legally doable (you’re the lawyer), a fake agency in the paper might let you get a lower bound, for a reasonable amount of money.

        Will you provide value to them? — this is the tricky one, as it’s dependent on the one above. If possible, you could investigate the particulars of the cases you are likely to receive, and determine whether and what payout you might receive from each.

        This might help set some bounds for “where can I work” — bearing in mind that you might get such unpleasant responses as “move to north dakota”.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        “If someone says to me, “I’m thinking of starting my own business,” I assume they have more than lint in their pockets. I assume they got at least some startup capital or a reasonable means of procuring it.”
        your thinking is limited. This is only necessary if you intend to continue running the business past a few days/weeks. Build business, cash out is always an option.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I know similar stories so it is possible. I also know people who started their own practices because no one else would hire them. With one exception, they all folded up shop as soon as someone else hired them.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @saul-degraw “Tod and Burt have both have said they want/hope I will start my own practice.”

        I can’t speak for Burt, but in my case I was encouraging you because you don’t seem particularly happy where you are, and because being in control of your own destiny is, in my experience, better than it being in the control of someone you thinks you should be a tin cog on the wheel. That’s not to say that I don’t understand that there is risk involved; of course there is.

        I know you think your career path has put you in an exotically difficult position, but really the only difference between your situation and everyone else’s simply is that you started later and have bigger loans because of law school. The hurdles you’re looking at are the same as everyone else who’s starting a business. And there are lot’s of ways to skin that cat: Business loan, family loan, saving up X, partnering with others to share the expense, etc.

        And just like everyone else, you mightn’t get all or any of those startup costs back. And god knows, that can be an intimidating thought and might make you decide it’s not really worth the risk — and if you think that then it’s probably the case.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I wouldn’t suggest that @saul-degraw look at hanging his own shingle if there was a less bad option available. following his search for regular employment, and seeing some of his non -negotiable terms (must be in SF, LA or NYC principally), I think that this is the least bad option within his grasp.

        “Least bad” is not the same thing as “good” and a long way away from “preferable.” Is financing a malpractice premium better than going bare? Neither, it’s just less bad.

        But ultimately whether the risks and costs will be something he’s willing to bear is a decision only he can make, because he’s the only one who will be doing it.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Is Saul’s view that they can’t be learned or taught at all, or that they can’t be learned or taught in a primarily classroom environment – that they can only be learned or taught in either actually trying and doing them, or, at the most pedagogical, in an apprenticeship-style field program of some kind?

    I’m not at all sure Saul would be right to think any of those, but I’m not sure he thinks the former and not just on of the latter.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      Again, I will got to my favorite book “Paying for the Party”

      The authors of the book described the perils of business lite majors this way:

      1. Rich kids with a large amount of family connections and wealth pick a major like Event Planning and basically party it up for 4-5 years and working on connections via their equally wealthy friends and boyfriends/girlfriends from the Greek System. The majors were described as “business lite” because they did not require calculus and would not be found at more elite universities including more exclusive public universities like Michigan, Cal, UVA, William and Mary, etc.

      2. The less economically advantaged kids try and emulate the rich kids by taking on the business lite majors and partying just as much.

      3. The rich kids end up getting good to great jobs, not because of anything they learned from their major, but because of their wealth, family connections, and the aesthetic tastes they learned growing up.

      4. The less economically advantaged kids don’t have the wealth, the connections, or the aesthetic tastes to really make a degree like Event Planning work for them and they get screwed.

      J-R made a point in my initial off-the-cuff that this program seems designed to attract people who could not get into Stanford or Cal. USF’s own website seems to go along with that. They have a quote from a current Senior on the site and it says: “I’m not originally from a very bustling city. I’m from a suburban area where there is not much opportunity. So for me, coming here to San Francisco is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had. I can definitely change the world from here.”

      This might be somewhat cruel to say but she sounds like the Working Class kids in the Paying for the Party who are trying to emulate their richer counterparts. Business and accounting as undergrad degrees are hear to stay but this sounds like a business-lite major. There doesn’t seem to be anything about needing to take calculus or other difficult math classes. There are probably kids who can take this major and get good jobs but they probably came from economically advantageous backgrounds. They do not make statements like “I’m not originally from a very bustling city.”

      I want people to be the first in their families to attend college and I want them to succeed but business lite majors seem to hurt more than they help.

      I’m also suspicious of copy like “Ranked in the top 25 of the Nation’s Most Entrepreneurial Campuses by Forbes” There are lists for everything! When I was in Chicago for business, saw Loyola or DePaul advertising that they were voted the #1 Green Campus by the Sierra Club. Is this admirable? Yes!! Should it influence a student in deciding on a college? Maybe to probably not but humans are humans and will do as they do.

      Of course it is always easy to dismiss the person who jumps up and down sees a potential scam as just being a cynical nay-sayer and downer. The optimist always has the upper hand in convincing.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Accounting, in particular, is not here to stay, not as a viable employer of Americans.
        Solvable problems ought not to be treated like they’re mountains. Simply molehills.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I also said that you should expand your source list beyond one ethnographic book. How often is it the case that working class kids major in things like event planning?

        In my experience, a good number of working class kids, who are the first generation to college, are actually fairly good at keeping their eye on the prize and realizing that they don’t have the same latitude as the rich kids to party it up and waste time.

        There are also lots of people who pursue advance degrees that don’t need the most prestigious degree. They already have a job or a career and mostly just want to credential to advance with their present employer or maybe move on to a better job. Not everyone needs to go to Stanford.

        You really cannot get at the truth of these situations through deductive reasoning. You need some empirical knowledge.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Rich kids with connections get better jobs out of college than less economically and socially privileged kids is not a profound observation. Nor is the fact that they don’t have to try as hard in college to get those jobs. It’d take a lot more than that to argue that specific programs are the problem, because that by itself is just the world we live in, man.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The problem with “Event Planning”, in my view, isn’t that it’s “business-lite.” It’s that it’s a vocational track that gears people towards careers with very limited openings. Even in this regard, I’m not sure how it’s worse than degrees in filmmaking or theater, which both guide students along a career track that’s tough and overpopulated.

        Entrepreneurship simply doesn’t strike me as being in the same category. First, because entrepreneurship covers a much more broad category. Second, if my own limited experience in an entrepreneurship program (I took an intro class, plus one other) the education aspect is (or can be) useful in a lot more contexts than starting some dot-com.

        If your comment about lists was in response to what I wrote on your post, I mentioned the Princeton Review list to show that such programs are actually relatively common, across many kinds of schools, and not some dot-com Silicon Valley fad.

        And lastly, maybe you can teach creativity and maybe you can’t. But you can teach people how to go from having an idea of a business to actually having a business. Getting a degree focused on that aspect of business can actually be more helpful than getting a business degree that only dabbles in it lightly.

        (I guess that wasn’t lastly, this is. A lot of it depends on what is on the curriculum. I took an intro course, which dabbled in a lot of the aspects of starting a business, but gave me enough to know what there was to learn. And what I assume that they teach. If all they’re doing is teaching you wizbang buzzwords and such, then yeah, that’s pretty useless. There isn’t much that leads me to believe that is the case.)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Those are some fair criticisms. An entrepenurship program might have more tools and more broad strokes.

        I might also have a natural revulsion to the word because of overuse in the Bay Area. I also dislike it when firms use words like “pivot” to mean “We originally wanted to do this but it wasn’t successful so now we are doing this” A good example is how Vox has changed from their original Mission Statement to something like almost every other Internet media site down to the “perfect response/magic words” kind of clickbait story.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I admit, the “and Innovation” cocks my brow a bit.

        But as I said previously, Vikram was a business professor in a department with an absolutely ridiculous and cringeworthy name come up by some marketing department or someone trying to be a marketing department. But mostly it seemed like they were trying to say “Hey, look, learning about distribution logistics and inventory management is actually really cool!”Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “Even in this regard, I’m not sure how it’s worse than degrees in filmmaking or theater, which both guide students along a career track that’s tough and overpopulated.”

        it’s not. in some ways it’s better. in theory, the event planning track features practice managing projects and related skills. and (also in theory), so does theatre or filmmaking. unfortunately, life is not a slot machine, regardless of major, so the driven student can go almost anywhere and major in just about anything and eventually become whatever they were going to become beforehand, but with a change of clothes in the middle.

        all of which is argument for families and prospective students to consider colleges starting with the student’s temperament, and tailor to their own financial risk/reward considerations after the best fit in terms of the style of education has been determined. the actual major is pretty far down the list, though i would caution anyone from going into a graduate program in the humanities without seriously considering all the risks involved.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Isn’t the general term for that Supply Chain Management?

        Or you can be cynical like Erik Loomis at LGM and call it “moving jobs to Bangladesh”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        At my college most of it fell under “industrial distribution”, though what I’m talking about is closer to something like “Supply Sorcery”Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I don’t know @will-truman event planning spans a lot of stuff, everything from weddings to concerts to sporting events. There are a lot of people around here who make their living doing event planning, there’s a lot of logistics to it, and it’s a viable field.

        Similarly, sports management. Athletic departments and recreation areas all hire people with degrees in sports management.

        But consider this: employers want people who have specific credentials and skill sets; they seem much less likely to invest in on-the-job training today then when I was entering the job market. So I think it’s only natural that programs for things like event planning and sports management exist. It’s not so clear that all the people who will graduate with those degrees (like lawyers, for instance,) will find work in those fields.

        But in general, those people hiring in those fields, often want people who’ve been educated in those fields; and so the trend is toward ever-more specialized. To some extent, the market (employers) spoke, and the universities answered with specialized degrees.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Innovation is a big area of research these days, and a bunch of big corporations have people in house doing innovation training. It’s real, and empirically-based.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @saul-degraw A couple of things here…

        First, when you talk about things like majors in event planning, you need to be aware of what you speak. It’s like blaming tuition on HVAC repair programs at your local community college.

        I’m sure there may be an exception somewhere, but in every case I have ever seen people don’t “major” in event planning. It’s usually a certificate program given out at community colleges and hospitality trade schools. The only time I’ve ever seen it offered at a actual college or university, it’s offered as a professional certificate as part of the college/university’s professional development curriculum. I’m sure there might be some exceptions, but I’d be surprised if you could find you five colleges and university’s that offer a bachelor’s degree in it.

        Second, you’re doing that thing you do where you take a variety of things that you don’t particularly care for and assuming they are all the same thing.

        You may not like the kids of people who go to business schools to get their bach’s, MBAs, or PhDs, but that does not make them all spoiled rich kids who don’t care about school. We went to different school, but I knew a hell a lot more art and lit majors who wiled away the hours on daddy’s dime than I did people from the business school.

        Lastly, regarding this…

        “Business and accounting as undergrad degrees are hear to stay but this sounds like a business-lite major.”

        .. and I cannot stress this enough, but your very profound ignorance is showing. I get that you think that people who study and teach things like innovation and other business classes are intellectual lightweights. This is because you have no idea what you are talking about.

        These people you are casually dismissing — without, as best I can tell, having even bothered to do five minutes of google research on a one them — have PhDs from places like Harvard, MIT, U-Chicago, Penn State, etc. They aren’t Poetry for Jocks programs. They are highly competitive programs that cater to people who work their tales off jockeying for position in the school’s whose degrees get them the biggest paydays — just like law school.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Chris, fair enough. Never claimed a lack of ignorance on that side 🙂

        Zic, I know a couple of people who got degrees in SM. Both are coaches at small private schools (both may have gotten other degrees along with SM). Can’t speak to event planning degree, except that it seems to lead to a competitive field that’s likely to be network-based.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Just to ground this conversation in a little bit of reality, here is the page for degree in question:

        A couple of things are worth pointing out. One is that this is a degree in hospitality and tourism, not just event planning. And as someone who used to work in the hotel industry, there are plenty of jobs that this degree could get you. You don’t necessarily need a degree in hospitality to work in the hospitality industry, but it probably doesn’t hurt.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I keep coming across the 10,000 hours idea, which gets married to the idea that “talent is a myth”: loosely iterated, it posits that for nearly all human endeavors, natural or innate talent doesn’t matter all that much, what matters is putting in time practicing doing something again and again. And it takes about 10,000 hours of doing it to become really good at it. Only then will natural, innate abilities distinguish the very good from the great.

    Is that true for writing symphonies? Is it true for business innovation? Maybe, at least as true as it is for any other thing.

    Something in the psyche resists this notion, wants to insist that no, that isn’t true, that some people (alternatively, everyone) has a strong and weak points, varying aptitudes, that some people can heroically exceed the abilities of others and other people sadly just plain have limits. I suppose the tenacity with which people hold on to that notion is evidence of the power of the myth — something makes us want to believe that Tiger Woods is a preternaturally gifted golfer and wants us to ignore that his dad made him practice his golf swing repetitively for hours on end, every day, starting from his second birthday, and maybe all that practice is what made him so good at such a young age.

    Of course, I think the idea was iterated in popular form by Malcolm Gladwell, and it’s also fashionable to denigrate the scholarship and analysis Gladwell brings to the table in favor of an allegedly craven desire to sell books of hooks crammed with pseudo-science and half-baked statistics. I’d like to think that at least here in this little corner of the internets, we’re able to consider the validity of the idea without respect to the cultural imperative to sneer at Gladwell.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Both can be true at the same time. Which is to say, I get math easily, so my 10,000 hours might be worth more than yours, regarding math. So yay me.

      Can creativity be taught? Thing is, it doesn’t feel like it, since creativity happens when your unconscious bubbles these amazing ideas.

      But then math works the same way. No really. I tell the people I tutor, “Look, if your stressed out on a problem, step away for a while. Your brain cannot do math-stuff when you’re stressed. Yes, put in the hard work. Turn the problem over in your mind. Poke at it. Then step away and get relaxed and listen to music or whatever. Maybe sleep on it. Then try again. Poke at it. Get all the weird parts of your brain wrestling with the problem. Then let the magic happen. It will seem suddenly obvious.”

      For creative stuff, I think it’s the same. You feel the ideas bubble up from your mind but you didn’t feel yourself work at them. It ain’t like digging a ditch.

      But then, did your brain just end up with this capacity? How’s that happen? Brains are little learning machines, where you pump in patterns and behaviors and a feedback and they match stuff up in crazy ways. Yay brains.

      Learning creativity does not feel like learning, but it is.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        This is a good comment.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Learning creativity is HARD. it’s learning the capacity to make disparate things connect in innovative ways. And it’s learning the ways to understand the problem better, to see it differently, in order to change your solution space.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Creativity can be taught, there’s not doubt about it; you mostly teach it by teaching the application of diligence; of putting in those hours. Most of what we call ‘natural talent’ is not natural talent; more, it’s inclination combined with ongoing effort.

        Success in business and in art both depend on some level of risk taking; on learning from your failures and mastering the skills and knowledge well so that you can better assess the risk and how to navigate its shoals.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I actually like a lot of Gladwell’s writing and articles. Million Dollar Murray was a great article:

    • Avatar Kim says:

      10,000 hours is nearly every waking moment for a 5 year old child.
      Did I mention that a Five Year Old Child got a full scholarship to Peabody??Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I know a guy who’s pretty good in math (he wins prizes!)… I’m pretty sure he spent more than 10,000 hours on algebra with nothing to show for it. Sometimes rethinking the problem is merely pulling the problem into a solution space that you can solve.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      The 10,000 number is a myth, and it’s fashionable to sneer at Gladwell because he’s sloppy: the work he bases that number on only uses it, 10,000, once as a sort of generic “bunch of hours” number. It focuses more on ten years. And that work was mostly a review of the early work on expertise, published 22 years ago, with a bunch of subsequent work suggesting that the relationship between practice and expertise, and in particular elite-level expertise, is much more complicated. Much, much more complicated.

      Veronica’s right in that some practice is more productive than other practice. This may be based on innate ability, it may be based on training, motivation, existing knowledge and ability/physical strength/whatever (Anthony Davis became an elite-level mid-range jump shooter basically over a single off season, with an almost entirely new shot motion, but that motion was built on existing knowledge of jump shooting from years of training with a different motion, along with the strength and flexibility that comes with that training).

      Learning concepts, though, and applying them, is something different. It may be difficult to train an elite-level musician with anything but practice, practice, practice, over a decade or more for most people (excluding some prodigies, who also progress over time of course) but you can teach someone complex musical theory in a few months or years, and teach it in such a way that they can apply it to composition, improvisation, sight reading and even playing well-known pieces (meaning it can actually aid in training).Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      We know that entrepreneurs often spend a lot of time around other people who are entrepreneurial before they become entrepreneurs; hence the theory that it is, as much as anything, a set of learned habits and thought processes that can be taught.

      The key seems to be exposure to someone who thinks in entrepreneurial ways.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Most successful companies are not founded by brash 20-somethings. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Paypal and a handful of others are exceptions that prove the rule and even they had a lot of guidance from business elders.

        Most successful companies tend to be founded by people in their 30s-50s after working at other places for a few decades and rising through the ranks.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Being a company on the scale of Apple or Google is rare, and that’s got nothing to do with ‘most companies’ at all. But, in fact, most companies actually do start in somebody’s garage. Or sometimes their kitchen.

        In your case, I’d actually recommend becoming familiar with entrepreneurial businesses; and not the kind the VC’s are interested in, the kind in a garage somewhere that an angel investor might be interested in.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        The Garage Myth is just that, a myth:

        Maybe it happens every now and then but Angel Investors are not really interested in cottage industries.

        Everyone loves to let anecdote trump data. The same thing happened when I pointed out that most ETSY companies are run by people as supplemental income or don’t make a profit at all. Everyone just needs to jump up with their own story about how their fifth cousin, twice removed’s girlfriend supports her family via ETSY.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @saul-degraw I didn’t suggest the ‘lone inventor,’ I said most people start businesses in their garages, their kitchens. They start it long before there ever is a business. And a big part of that starting is not being alone, but seeking out partners, workers, ideas, studying markets, and all sorts of other very social things that are about interacting. People who were, previously, not very entrepreneurial, often become that way after spending time with people who are entrepreneurial. Just because you’re starting from home does not mean you’re alone; and if you are alone, chances are, you’ll stay that way and not attract a lot of commerce to your door.

        I’m also really struggling with size here. I think you’re looking at the biggest, must successful, and thinking all things work that way. (Sometimes, it seems you do this with geography, too; expecting of small places what you think is normal from big cities.) But half of the people in the US work for small businesses of 50 or fewer employees. And a company’s growth, which is part of what we’re looking at here, is a formula that does not have to bend to being as big or profitable as Apple; that’s the exception, not the rule.

        You’re trying to start a business; and in so doing, you’re what many people would call an entrepreneur. But that does not mean you’re being entrepreneurial, either. For that, you’d be not only planning on how to start it, but you’d be looking at markets to grow into in a way that your law firm would grow at a steady clip, hiring more people and taking on more clients in a planned manner. When I suggested you find out more about those businesses, I was also suggesting that you consider this: they have legal needs, and run on shoestring budgets. They might be happy to not pay for your office, and instead, pay for a cab ride to theirs; even if it’s their garage. That’s entrepreneurial thinking.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        hmm… does DARPA count as an angel investor? They’ve been known to invest in some very interesting technology….Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @burt-likko My understanding from the research crowd is that the idea of 10,000 hours is correct, but that the actual number 10,000 turns a hard-to-pinpoint line that varies somewhat from person to person into a round, easy to think about target. The other thing that often gets dropped in the 10,000 discussions I’ve seen is that it is only meant to be true within a certain range or physical and/or mental attributes.

      And I think you’re right that it was Gladwell who took 10,000 and made it so ubiquitous.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Work from last year.

        Note: that paper has pie charts, which is just about to enough for me to dismiss it out of hand, but…

        More (also with pie charts, unfortunately. From the conclusion:

        Ericsson and his colleagues’ (1993) [Chris: the paper on which Gladwell bases his 10,000 hour rule] deliberate-practice view has generated a great deal of interest in expert performance, but their claim that individual differences in performance are largely accounted for by individual differences in amount of deliberate practice is not supported by the available empirical evidence.

        Related (with no pie charts, finally!).

        Though the importance of a shitload of practice still shows up consistently in music (no pie charts).

        Even there (and perhaps in many domains, particularly with physical skills and muscle memory, but also conceptual spaces and certain fundamental types of reasoning like spatial reasoning, as in chess) it is necessary, but not sufficient (no pie charts).Report

  5. Avatar ScarletNumber says:

    Saul 1, Tod 0Report

  6. I used to be very anti-business major. I remember once, as a TA for a history class, explaining, on the first day of said class, how history and liberal arts in general was what was really important while studying business was at best just a hoop jumping exercise. Nobody called me out on it (although probably a significant number or even a majority were business majors), but I now realize how mistaken–and rude–I was being: there’s nothing to endear students to a subject like telling them, almost in so many words, how much contempt I have for their choice of study.

    That’s just one example of how I used to be a very poor teacher. I think I gradually learned from my own mistakes, but I do regret my choices then, and if I teach again, hope not to make them again.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    So much to like about this post Tod. Really, really well-written rebuttal.

    As someone who is a proud liberal arts major that works with a lot of business major guys, I believe pretty strongly that a company benefits from having both perspectives (luckily my boss agrees which as how I got my job.) With all that said, as Tod points out, most innovation is built on the advancements of others and/or trial and error. That can absolutely be taught. It’s no different than creative writing or composition.Report