Outliers — The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown and Company, 2008

No wonder Asian children outperform English-speaking children in math. No wonder the Hatfield and McCoy feud was so deadly. And no surprise the best hockey players are born in the first quarter of the year.

Gladwell picked questions of group behavior like performance in math and an airline’s propensity for crashes and did the obvious. He asked questions and looked at evidence instead of the accepted truisms of a society convinced of its superior belief in every person’s ability to be successful “if they want to,” or “if they try hard enough.”

He followed strings of thought others hadn’t (at least others who had a book that would sell) and let common sense and outside influences often discounted be included. Gladwell’s search was to understand the real reasons of success by getting beneath the culturally accepted thinking of U.S. society that every barefoot child with a dream can rise to riches beyond imagination. Except, he quietly presents, there are the pesky influences of where and when the child was born, who the parents are, how the child is educated, and what odd quirky helps or misses, sometimes called luck, happen along the way.

Outliers is “chicken soup for the soul” for any person who has watched a loved friend, child or parent attempt that rickety ladder to success and seen them fall when another appeared to scamper up to success beyond measure. But, before anyone starts proclaiming they weren’t lucky or blames Mom and Dad, this is the book that popularized the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master almost anything of real value. How many people can track their time devoted to something they say they love and should be successful doing at 10,000 hours? That is 416 days; over a year without any sleep, food, or facebook. More reasonably, that is two hours a day, every live long day, for over thirteen years.

The answer Gladwell comes up with as to why one person succeeds and another doesn’t is convoluted and not easily cross-stitched to hang up for quick reference. His book can be used as a reference to keep someone trekking on, as well as a psalm book to comfort the person who wonders why he never made it.

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8 Responses to Outliers — The Story of Success

  1. Read this a while ago but thought the points he made about which children and why are offered more opportunities to practice skills had some really implications for how we education our children, run sports programs, etc. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any changes . . .

  2. Very, very interesting facts about success or not!

  3. carpetbeater says:

    I may be an exanple or even sample of your authors thesis? Fighting off the condition of clonic tonic epilepsy to achieve degree, work and later my own company (directly because of discrimination) I still fell because of seizure. Stress & tension can destroy everyone’s balance of life.
    Therefore it so I furiates me when conservative or republican politicians try to claim everyone (below them) can have anything if they try, most of them from an advantaged starting point.
    Most of U.S. culture I obviously see from the outside, from film, TV etc. and itdoes surprise me how the message of success for all or you can be a winner too is so often wrapped into a storyline. Sometimes subtle sometimes blasting the message! It is the western worlds version of Propoganda to keep us on track. Scripts for most performances are formulaic, how often are we presented with the maverick who will do things his way, as the hero? A resonance of America’s frontiersman?
    You obviously got me thinking today, thankyou.

  4. You’re more than welcome, Carpetbeater! Hearing how others think helps me sort out what I think. It was my view in writing that there’s more than a movie screen ready story to success and it was Gladwell’s as well.

  5. petit4chocolatier says:

    Interesting! Definitely something to think about.

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