Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
First line: “One warm, spring day in May 2007, the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Vancouver Giants met for the Memorial Cup hockey championships in Vancouver, British Columbia.”
Christmas did come early, because I’ve already received and inhaled Outliers, the third book by wunderkind Malcolm Gladwell. (Tipping Point, Blink) Since I read and loved both of his earlier works, I knew I’d enjoy Outliers, a story about the sociology of success as told only like Gladwell could. However, I never expected to like quite this much.
Outliers explores if not all, at least many of the reasons people are successful – or not. Sure, we’ve all heard that successful people “stand on the shoulders of giants.” We know mentors are helpful, coming from a good family is important and that luck – where and when you are born and how you happen in to a field all play some sort of role, but what Gladwell does is go even deeper to explain that these things aren’t just sort of important, but critical to becoming an outlier. An outlier is an outsider; in this case, someone who is so successful as to be set apart from the masses. Yet it’s not just *one thing* that makes someone an outlier, but a whole set of them working together. A collection of opportunities given over time.
The joy in reading the book isn’t just that the stories aiming to prove each chapter’s point are entertaining. It’s that you can so clearly see those things at work in your own life and the lives of people you know. In fact, I’ll bet when you are finished with Outliers that you can clearly build your own success pyramid by going back to your ancestry, as Gladwell does so well in the final chapter, and then layering it one “opportunity” at a time. Did the pyramid crumble? I’ll be you can figure out why, too. Did someone else get that opportunity that would’ve moved you ahead?
If you love to learn, you’ll be pleased with all the statistics and stories you can spout off at your next social function. Why are most successful hockey players born in the early months of the year? Why are the highest achievers in class born in the first half of the year? Why did more Korean Air planes go down than any other? Why are folks from the Appalachian region quicker to anger than from other regions? Why is it critical to get 10,000 hours of practice in to master a skill? How did the Beatles get an advantage beyond talent alone?
If you’re a parent, it will make you consider not only how you are raising your children, but how you can assist them with more opportunities for success. Yes, parents matter. (Whew! Or, uh-oh.)
What I admire most about the book is that it’s not talking about success in terms of a career or monetary gain alone- it can just as easily apply to success in relationships and life itself. The book is not a how to – it’s a why, and reflecting on it may help us to figure out the how to for ourselves. Highly recommended.
For: Sociology buffs, successful and not-so-successful people, armchair historians and anyone interested in learning more about why success happens. – Malena Lott
Buy it at Amazon.