Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” came out in 2008 as a follow-up to his popular book “Blink”.  In “Outliers” Gladwell writes a compelling argument that “it is not the brightest who succeed, nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

The premise of “Outliers”  is that behind every success is a story, and that story often comes back to an opportunity that is not equally available –  so being in the right place at the right time makes a big difference.  The other key differentiator is that success follows hard work and deliberate practice.

Malcolm Gladwell supports his theory will a tremendous array of stories that he weaves together to provide an insight into the world of success.  Some of the examples include how sporting success is largely determined by the month of the year you are born.  Children born within three months of the age cut-off are generally larger, stronger and better coordinated.  These older children are then funneled into all-star teams that offer the best, most intense training.  By the time they become teenagers, the small, random advantage that existed at a young age becomes magnified with experiences over time.

The Beatles’, whose success, Gladwell maintains, was due to the fact that in their early years in Hamburg, Germany, they had to play very long sets at clubs, in a wide variety of styles, which both helped them to get in their 10,000 hours and forced them to be creative and excel at experimenting.  The 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is a key determinant of success.

He credits Bill Gates’ success to early and sustained access to high-end computers.  Gates’s high school happened to have a computer club when almost no other high schools did.  He then had the opportunity to use the computers at the University of Washington, for hours on end.  Gladwell asks Gates himself how many other teenagers in the world had as much experience as he had by the early 1970s. “If there were 50 in the world, I’d be stunned,” Gates says. “I had a better exposure to software development at a young age than I think anyone did in that period of time, and all because of an incredibly lucky series of events.”

There are many other compelling stories throughout that stand on their own, yet contribute to the overall argument.  I recommend this book as it will leave you with ideas and theories to ponder.  This isn’t a university text and doesn’t claim to present all sides of the argument but it does certainly give an insoight into what breeds success.

At the end of it all, there are many circumstances that aid success, but it is still up to the individual to make the most of them.  It comes back to personality, work-ethic and the desire to make it happen.

We can point to external influences all we like but the main determinant of our success lies within us.

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One Response to Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

  1. Heinrich says:

    Nice article Matthew, I absolutely enjoy your posts.

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