Goodreads – Outliers
Author – Malcolm Gladwell
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. – Goodreads Synopsis
Outliers was a fantastic read that has changed the way we have perceived success. I had this sitting on my shelf for a while, and I only just recently decided that I should pick it up and see what it is all about. Why? Because I want to be more successful. So when reading through Outliers, I was trying my hardest to extrapolate the meanings behind the stories that Gladwell tells and apply them to my own life.
After the intro, Malcolm get’s into studying what sets apart the successful hockey players, from the ones who didn’t make it. This is where he immediately hooked me and pulled me further into the book and had me question myself on why I do not read more non-fiction. The statistics, research, and conclusions found in Outliers had me enthralled. Below I’ve put in one of the charts that he uses to show the patterns he found –
What separates the vast majority of successful hockey players is their birth date. The closer their birthday is to the beginning of year, the better off they are. They have the advantage of making the cutoff for that age group early on, but being physically much bigger. Now I was thinking to myself at this point, fuck, how do I make myself successful because of this? He makes it sound like it is all luck at this point. It is not just because of their birthday though, it is the opportunities that followed afterwards. They were on better teams ,with better equipment, and they were getting much more practice. This is what outliers is about, it is looking for those opportunities and making the best out of them.
By now, everyone has heard of the 10,000 hour rule. I’ve heard about it long before I finally got to reading Outliers. (I can’t believe this came out in 2008. Where the hell does time go?!) This is what set aside people like Bill Gates and The Beatles according to Gladwell. They had these opportunities that were so unique, and those opportunities allowed them to practice, and get those hours in. It is important to note that out of every story in this book, no one skipped the work. Even if they had opportunities and privileges that others did not have, they still put in the work.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
Gladwell goes on to point out that the opportunities don’t only come in the form of being able to work harder. It could be that you have a higher IQ (Which does not correlate to being successful as much as you think it would), it could be from your cultural heritage (which matters more that I would have though, or from just the sheer timing of where you were. Some of the research and the examples he used to back them that he did was just incredible.
This is the next set of charts that amazed me. It shows the culmination of reading points from throughout the school year. Now you can see that obviously during the school year, everyone is having the same opportunity to learn. (With middle class students learning a bit more.)
This next chart here shows the points during the first month back in school, or in other words, what happened over summer vacation.
This is what separates the classes when it comes to knowledge. It is that the more privileged children do so much more during their summer vacations that they keep getting the advantage. The schools are proven to work fine, it is what is happening during the long summer vacation. The question that also arises is whether or not the US should have such long vacation times? Sure we all love them, but when the scores are compared to the other countries that do not have the vacations, it is apparent that it setting us back in the knowledge department.
I could keep going on and on about the all of the examples that Gladwell masterfully put into Outliers, but you will just have to pick it up yourself. It is very worth the time.
What is my takeaway to Outliers? I need to find the opportunity that I have been given that might not be apparent right now. What gives my that outlier advantage like the other successful people in this story? More importantly is: how do I make that work for me? What do I need to put my 10k hours into?
I was telling my good friend about this book while I was in the middle of reading it, and I was telling him “Man, I need to find where my opportunity is. What can I abuse to become successful like these other guys?” The day after I was talking about that, I got a great opportunity in the form of a big promotion job relocation offer. Weird how things work out like that.
I also want to leave you all with a quote that has stuck with me from Outliers –
No one who can rise before dawn, 360 days a year, fails to make his family rich.
Now get back to work!!