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Malcolm Gladwell: There are no shortcuts to success—here's what will up your chances

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell is known for uncovering misconceptions. One he'd like to settle once and for all? There is no shortcut to success.

Gladwell learned this firsthand when he was fired from his first job after just two months. When he was 20 years old, Gladwell took a job working for a magazine in Indiana and quickly realized he lacked the discipline he'd need to be successful.

"I was 20 years old and I couldn't wake up before 11 o'clock in the morning," he told CNBC at OZY Fest. His inability to make it to work on time ultimately forced his boss to fire him.

Since then, Gladwell has come to profoundly appreciate the value of hard work. "I have learned many things subsequently, but you know, one of them is the importance of discipline," he says.

Malcolm Gladwell
Bloomberg | Getty Images
Malcolm Gladwell

In his book "Outliers: The Story of Success," Gladwell writes that people must put in 10,000 hours of hard work in order to perfect a skill. He argues that Bill Gates was a success because he had been coding since he was a child. Similarly, he writes, The Beatles made it big in part because they had experience playing grueling eight-hour gigs. This kind of strenuous work is what makes people successful, says Gladwell.

"There is no way around hard work," Gladwell tells CNBC. "There are never any shortcuts, and anyone who tells you there's a shortcut is blowing smoke."

Not only is hard work necessary, but Gladwell notes that it's the only way to make sure that taking a risk pays off. "Hard work is what makes risk-taking possible. You can't do one without the other," he says. "The only way you overcome the obstacles associated with risk-taking is if you put your nose to the grindstone."

If you are able to put in this kind of hard work and take bold risks, your chances of success are high, he says.

And it's no coincidence that Gladwell's book emphasizes the importance of rising early. "No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich," he says. And Gladwell himself is no longer sleeping till noon.

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