Outliers: The Story of Success
By: Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers was a unique read. Not quite like anything I’ve read before. It’s a journalistic non-fiction that encompassed a lot of different subjects. I enjoyed it, and I think the subject matter is an important thing to be discussed.
However, at times is did feel a bit pseudo-scientific. Not in the astrology sense, but in the fact that some generalizations and conclusions seemed to be drawn on an insufficient amount of evidence. Like anything, you should take this book with a grain of salt.
At the center of the book is the study of successful people. Particularly the extremely successful, people like Bill Gates, John Rockefeller, and Mark Zuckerberg. Unlike most research on this topic, Gladwell decides to look at the factors out of the control of these hyper-successful people. While most focus on personality traits like ambition and intellgence, the author looked closely at place of birth, cultural surroundings, and the family of these so-called Outliers.
What’s surprising is that a lot of what makes an Outlier, is chance. For example, Bill Gates happened to go to one of the only high schools in the country with an ASR 33 Teletype. Which as you all know was one of the most advanced computer devices of 1968. This incredibly unlikely decision by the Mother’s Club of Lakeside High enabled Bill Gates the opportunity to develop his coding skills before he even got to college, just on the cusp of the computer revolution! Of course, not everything is chance. Gates was no slacker and logged thousands of hours practicing on that machine. Often sneaking out at night to go to the school and practice. However, the fact that he did get that opportunity, at that exact right time, was just lucky. Gates himself will immediately acknowledge that a lot of his success has to do with luck.
The book is filled with examples like this. From NHL players correlation to youth hockey age cut off dates, to a seemingly average Joe with no college degree with a ridiculously high IQ.
I’ll end by saying the book makes sure not to diminish the importance of hard work, practice, and persistence. It does however call on us to look at the way we structure society, to make sure talent does not fall through the cracks by a series of unfortunate events.
over and out,