Defeating Your Natural Inclination

Malcolm Gladwell has made me think more than any other author or teacher I’ve ever encountered. He has written many influential books including The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and David and Goliath, all of which are among my favorite, and most recently, he created the podcast “Revisionist History.” He has a way of asking just the right questions to uncover detail and nuance that bring new revelations to light.

However, during a recent interview on the “Tim Ferriss Show,” he admitted to being naturally very impatient and sloppy with his work. He further explained that he has traditionally been a “good enough” person but realized early in his journalism career the importance of being thorough. As a result, he became obsessed with fixing these two flaws.

Expounding on this transformation, Gladwell noted, “When you observe or measure someone's natural inclinations, you haven't got a picture of them because you don't know what they do with those natural inclinations.” The world knows Gladwell as a perfectionist because he concentrated on his two biggest flaws to become their opposite. In other words, he didn’t allow his natural inclinations to dictate his actual behavior.

This is an extremely liberating idea. I think that so many times we judge ourselves by these natural inclinations and completely discount our capability for change. Whether you have always been out of shape or terrible with money, that does not have to be your identity forever. If you know that about yourself and want to change, you can start exercising or keeping up with your finances and become a better version of yourself.

Like with Gladwell, the change starts by recognizing the “problem” inclination. For example, I hear people say things like, “I’ve just never been very good with money,” which is especially tragic for people who actually make good money but can’t keep track of it. It’s as if making that statement excuses behavior and takes their personal actions out of the equation. It doesn’t. If you’ve never been good with money before, start now.

Paying attention to detail, getting in shape, and managing finances are not skills reserved for the world’s elite like competing in the Olympics or playing at Carnegie Hall. Developing these skills is simply a matter of recognizing your natural inclination and deciding to change it.


Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at