Why I Thank Satan I Don't Have to Attend D.C. Cocktail Parties

Former White House budget director Peter Orszag has left behind the hurlyburly of recession-making and taken up residence at The New York Times as a sub-Gladwellian popularizer of aperçus that are every bit as wise as that thing you thought of the first time you got high. Here's Washington's most potent man elaborating on shocking new proof that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration:

In effect, the stars among us have practiced so much that they are better at what psychologists call “chunking.” Imagine trying to remember 41 letters or numbers. Most of us couldn’t come close to doing that. Now imagine trying to remember a sentence with 47 letters or numbers, like: “Imagine trying to remember 41 letters or numbers.” Most of us can do that with little difficulty, because we are chunking the letters and numbers. We remember the words, and we know the letters in each word.

[The author of the "most important book" Orszag has "read over the past six months"] shows that most better performers have practiced so intensely that they chunk better at their tasks than normal people. So we see impressive performance and think someone is naturally skilled, whereas the reality is that person has simply practiced for longer and more intensely than others.

I don't know about you, but in this author's breast, relief that this man is no longer near the levers of the U.S. economy vies with dismay that a terrible pundit is born. It's just a matter of time before the budget wiz has his own twice-a-week d'jever-notice column and we all end up blowing more chunks than one of Orszag's exes in her first trimester.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Joel Pile||

    OOOhh,I looooove his haircut!

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Is anyone else reminded of Barton Fink's hair?

  • alan||

    nice catch!

  • ||

    "I could tell you stories to curl your hair, but it looks like you've already heard 'em."

  • Suki||

    That hair is anything but curly, idiot.

  • Rahm||

    Never let a pop-culture reference go to waste.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Does that mean he'll wind up with a psychopath out to kill him?

    Not like I want that to happen, or anything...

  • johnl||

    My boy gets that haircut for free whenever our neighbor gets leave.

  • ||

    The good thing is, he never has to get the top cut.

  • Sheep||

    You fookin' bastard!

  • Joel Pile||

    Variety is the flavor of fun, you know!

  • Rich||

    Now imagine trying to remember a sentence with 47 letters or numbers, like: “Imagine trying to remember 41 letters or numbers.” Most of us can do that with little difficulty, because we are chunking the letters and numbers.

    With all due respect, WTF?

  • hmm||

    Hi Pete, there's already a study or two dealing with the idea of a person mastering a skill because, "that person has simply practiced for longer and more intensely than others."

    It is commonly referred to as the 10K hour theory. It's a nature v. nurture argument. You might want to look into it for your next riveting article.

  • hmm||

    This was not meant to go here. Someone please inflict the proper beating on the mentally challenged government quota employee you call your IT professional.

  • strat||

    All I could think when I saw that was, "What, is he about to tell us how to remember names at D.C. cocktail parties?"

  • Bingo||

    Next week's column: people walk by putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for your unique and astounding insight Mr. Orszag!

    Actually it is possible the idea (working hard for success) was something of an epiphany for a 40-something year old liberal brain damaged by years of neglect. He's certainly never heard the idea spoken before in his social circles.

  • ||

    What about chewing gum and walking at the same time? Or rubbing the top of your head and your belly at the same time?

    These things take practice, you know.

  • ||

    It's just a matter of time before the budget wiz has his own twice-a-week d'jever-notice column and we all end up blowing more chunks than one of Orszag's exes in her first trimester.


    I counldn't have said that better myself.

  • Wiggie Washington||

    Suk any good Dik lately?

    I did...and boy was it smelly

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    "as wise as that thing you thought of the first time you got high"

    If time seems like it's going by really really slow, is it because my mind is thinking really really fast? Or is this just a linguistic trick - what does it mean when I think "time is going by really slow"? Time, external of me, is moving really slow, and I perceive that correctly? Or is my mind moving faster and that makes everything else seem slow? Did I already say that? No, I mean, like did I literally just have this same conversation with you like 5 minutes ago?

    How huge are his hands?

    Stoooopid question here, but why does this guy wear a beaver pelt on his head? Is he Canadian?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Industrious and self-sufficient, the beaver has long been the national bird of Canada. Out of a sense of national pride, they don't kill beavers, they don't wear beavers, and they certainly don't eat beavers.

    Conviction of beaver poaching carries a sentence of two hours in a clean, well-lit waiting area followed by a polite but sternly-worded lecture; one of the harshest penalties available in Canadian justice. Aggravated cases may involve the addition of disapproving frowns.

  • ||

    "...national bird of Canada..."?

    Yet another triumph of American Public Schools.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Are you implying that there are birds that are able to land in that icy wasteland without freezing to the trees? *scoff*

    Just for that, I think I'll pop down to the comic book thread and compare the Avengers to Alpha Flight.

  • AA||

    +10

  • Greer||

    Dude, take another hit.

  • ||

    I own the book he read (I read it in a few hours) and he's not describing it accurately. "Chunking" is not necessarily the byproduct of lots of practice. It's an example of a mnemonic device that anyone can use, if they know it. So the point is that lots of practice is good, but lots of efficient practice is better. Seeing as how he left the Obama administration, if he really wants to distinguish himself from them he should probably pay more attention to the concept of efficiency :)

  • Abdul||

    I nominate Lisa for new White House budget director.

  • SIV||

    Greek shipping heiress tail...

    I can see the allure of those parties

  • ||

    If he's such a chunking apostle, why didn't he teach Obama this skill so he wouldn't need to bring TelePrompTers everywhere he goes?

  • ||

    Surprise: Obama administration is still invoking state secrets privilege to protect Boeing from lawsuits for flying terror suspects abroad for a leisurely stay at Club Torture. And the courts are letting him get away with it, indeed prohibiting the plaintiffs from even using evidence that is publicly known in their case.

    Luckily, we've had some wise and empathetic justices appointed by the Peace Party over the past couple of years, so they've got a chance to get it overturned by SCOTUS.

  • alan||

    Luckily, we've had some wise and empathetic justices appointed by the Peace Party over the past couple of years, so they've got a chance to get it overturned by SCOTUS.

    I understand why they hate you around here, but I don't get why they don't love you too. That is some 24 karat sarcasm right there.

  • ||

    We don't hate Tulpa, we hate some of the things he believes.

  • ||

    I feel like a gay guy at a Promise Keepers meeting. Well, except I don't want to have sex with any of you.

  • ¢||

    The first time we get really high, most of us are all "OH CHRIST I HAVE TOO MANY TEETH." Based on the most important 100-word column excerpt I've read over the past six months, I see now that when we get really high, we lose our long and intensely practiced capacity to "chunk" our teeth.

    B) I'm actually shocked how dumb The Zag-Man's column is, though I've never seen him come off as anything but flustered and stupid on TV. It's worse than Larry King's dictated-in-the-cab page-filler. Princeton, LSE, CFR, White House—and the dude writes, and evidently thinks, like a middle-school cheerleading coach. A really fat one.

    Brought to you by Meritocracy™.

  • Eyeroll||

    Because slimy Koch welfare useless fucks on reason have a right to judge other pundits!

  • Red Blooded American||

    You tell 'em, liberal douche.

  • The Long Arm of the Kochtopus||

    That's not the song you were singing last night.

  • hee||

    Do I hafta RTFA to understand what heck he's a'talkin'bout?

  • ||

    I doubt RTFA would clarify the matter.

  • Row vs Wade||

    But the RZA might. Spit it, homeboy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEItA4HCXRo

  • vagrant chain-yanker||

    You mean elucidate. Clarifying is for butter.

  • hmm||

    Hi Pete, there's already a study or two dealing with the idea of a person mastering a skill because, "that person has simply practiced for longer and more intensely than others."

    It is commonly referred to as the 10K hour theory. It's a nature v. nurture argument. You might want to look into it for your next riveting article.

  • Paul||

    Dude looks like Steve Jobs.

  • hee||

    My favorite thing I ever thought of when I got high, I found scrawled across about 15 pages of a legal pad when I woke up in the morning. I had written out my revelation in the dark, fearing I would forget it while heading to the light switch. It was "The only time my neurotic nature gets me into trouble is when I overcompensate for it by giving someone the benefit of a doubt when my instincts tell me I should not." See, I'm a star and I always have been!

  • ||

    I am NOT going to give you the benefit of the doubt on that.

  • hee||

    So you agree with me, yes?

  • ||

    They can run him opposite Maureen Dowd to make her look smarter.

  • ||

    I need not nur die Huffingtisch Poste fur den hard-hitten Journalizmus, schau hier, auf dem Webby: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01.....rszag.html

  • ||

    Hi, allow me invite you to my community:The site named --SugarMommyDate-- (where mature women and men who like cougar find love). Best Cougar dating site in the world! It's where cougars and younger men can meet(Cougar is the slang for woman who is mature, experienced and want to date with a younger man). No matter you are looking for a NSA or serious relationship, please do check it out!And also you may find yourself more compatible with young men. For young men, dating an older woman has numerous advantages. You can sometimes learn valuable advice from her on how to conduct himself in a difficult situation. She is your best listener and supporter.Join us and contact tens of thousands of cougars and cougar admirers!It's where mature women and men who like them can get fvcked.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Can I chunk your cougars?

  • Attorney||

    "You like-ee cougar?"

  • ||

    Why would I be looking for a national security advisor? Have you ever seen of them?

  • Ted S.||

    You attend the DC cocktail parties to get 'tight' with Sally Quinn.

  • Almanian||

    Thanks for the reset. The re-read was worth it, if only just for this:

    This aside is nice, too: "I'll tell you what's a real killer: scientists."

    Do you eventually go deaf in the echo chamber?

  • huh??||

    I don't see the scandal here. Do all of you disagree with the article and the book that it references? Do you agree but think that the thesis is blindingly obvious? I read a similar book recently and found much of the information surprising and contrary to common beliefs.

  • ||

    "talent is overrated" is the name of the book. Got it at the airport...I really liked it, but "chunking" wasn't the central theme and it is funny how shocked some socialists are that practice can make you better at something.

  • huh??||

    No, the book that Orszag refers to is called Bounce, by Matthew Syed. Talent is Overrated happens to be the book that I read on the same topic. How about it, Mr. Cavanaugh? What is your beef with Orszag's article? He may be an uber-tool, but I don't see how this article is evidence of his toolness. Were you just looking for an excuse to post a picture of his funny haircut?

  • ||

    Duh.

  • Spazmo||

    I don't suppose this asshat has ever heard of Kolmogorov complexity. "Chunk" a random string all you want, bud, but it won't make it easier to remember.

  • nfl premier jerseys||

    What you had mentioned is quite reasonable! Beautifully written article sir.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    nfl premier jerseys
    Dallas Cowboys premier jerseys

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement