In this stunning 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.
The whole point of the book is that outliers are not outliers in ways we might sense they are which is through intelligence, self-determination, or even hard work. Rather, a series of major, somewhat uncontrollable factors have been playing roles in their success. (For those of you who don’t know who/what an outlier is, here is a concise definition from the Oxford dictionary:
“A person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set”). What Gladwell suggests is that in arguing about the success we have been far too focused on “individuals” on characteristics, habits, and personalities of those who have risen to the summit of achievement, while in order to understand the real causes, we have to look around them at their culture, ethnicity, family, birth date and generation.
In one chapter, he outlines the relation between being born in the first 3 months of the year and becoming a professional hockey player. In another, he mentions the surprising number of professional Jewish lawyers, all born in Brooklyn or Bronx in the mid-1930s and to parents who worked for the clothing industry Wait! Did you know that there is a magic year to be born if you want to become a software entrepreneur?
Did you know that the reason why Asians are so good at math is because of their rice padding tradition? What about this one? : Did you know that Bill Gates, Joe Flom at Skadden, Oppenheimer, and Chris Langan (“the smartest” man in the world) had all two things in common: 10,000 hours of work before hitting their strides and living in the atmosphere of luck… So many patterns, right?!
Let’s not spoil anymore. Go on reading this book. You’ll be even more amazed! It makes you understand how much a social work success is and how a society can control who and how many people succeed.
“Outliers are not outliers at all. They are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious.
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