Chris Langan is one of four brothers, all with different dads. His father ran way before Chris was born. Jack Langan is his mothers latest husband, he is a failure of a journalist and a drunk. Growing up the boys had one set of clothes each and they were constantly moving because Jack couldn't keep a job. They moved to Bozeman, a small hick town where the Langan family wasn't respected. To stand up for his family Chris began to lift weights. One time Jack was getting rough with the boys, Chris knocked him out cold. Jack Langan didn't return after that. After graduation he was offered two full scholarships to Reed College in Oregon and University of Chicago. Chris chose Reed, he looks back and says it was a huge mistake. He didn't fit in with the lifestyle there. Then he lost his scholarship, because his mother never updated the information needed to renew it. He received all Fs on his transcript unlike the first semester when he got all As. He went back to Bozeman and worked serval jobs and then enrolled in Montana Sate University. In the winter quater of school, the transmission fell out of his car, and his class times became a problem. He went to the dean and asked to transfer classes to fit around his new schedule. The school was unwilling to do that for him so he dropped out. His experiences with these schools became a turning point in his life. He had the intelligence to be more but because of the way things happened he worked many part time jobs. He still read into philosophy, mathematics, and physics. Langan was asked if he would accept a job as a Harvard, he said his ideas would weigh more and seem better because he has the Harvard name. But to him the people are there to become big shots and are not just there for the ideas, but the paycheck.
Gladwell explains the life of Robert Oppenheimer, who came from a very wealthy family that supported him. Oppenheimer is famously known for developing the nuclear bomb during World War II. At a very young age he was considered a genius. He went to Harvard and later on Cambridge University. Oppenheimer was depressed though, he at one point tried poisoning his tutor. His tutor caught on and Robert was sent to a psychiatrist. Langan and Oppenheimer are compared. If it was Langan that poisoned his tutor would he have charges pressed against him. Or if Oppenheimer's mother forgot to fill out paper work would they have let it slide by.
Practical intelligence is learned from the family growing up. Sociologist Annette Lareau did a study following families of 12 third graders. She found that there were only two parenting "philosophies". That was based off of the financial status of the families. The wealthier parents were more involved in their child's life keeping them busy with activities.Middle-class parents would reason with their children, negotiating. The poorer families have the child grow and develop on their own. There isn't a correct way to raise children stresses Lareau. Gladwell concludes that the wealthier families have more of a cultural advantage.
Oppenheimer was at an avantage since he was raised with a lot of money and many luxuries. He was very mature for his age. He would get bored in school and his teachers would give him harder independent work. But with Chris teachers would not give him their special attention he was not treated differently. Unlike Oppenheimer, Langan grew up distrusting authority and being independent. He never had anyone tell him to speak up for himself. Chris' brothers believe that if he was born into a family with money that his true talents would have been more appreciated.
Lewis Terman's termites are now adults and about 150 of them were very successful. The middle group of about 60% of the termites were doing average. The bottom 150 were not living to their fullest ability, they were postal workers, struggling shop owners, and some even jobless. The only thing that Terman could figure out was that the family background had a major influence on the actions that the termites took. The top group were mainly from upper to middle class families. The lower 150 had parents that were dropouts, and most of them lived poor. What that group lacked was a community around them. Terman calls them true outliers.
Chris Langan is now in his fifties, married and living on a horse farm. Langan was content with is life he still liked reading and studying up on his interests. He has been working on a project that has never been published or even read by philosophers. He wasn't bragging about his intelligence holding conferences, he was just living an average laid back life.