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.