Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell follows the story of successful individuals and then indentifies why they are successful. Gladwell claims “it’s as much about where we’re from and what we do, as we who are”.
Very early on Gladwell states that “it makes a difference where and when you grew up”. Then throughout the book he looks at a range of successful people in music, tech, business, sport etc to breakdown the reasons why they were successful.
One area of research is sports people and the month they were born in. Gladwell looks at professional athletes and discovers that the month of birth had an effect on how great they are. For example, in a sport where the year ends in December then a high proportion of leading sports starts would be born in January, February and March. This is because at a young age they would have been better due to being older and most likely taller, stronger etc. Then, as a result of being selected for the top league, there chances of success are multiplied because of the further opportunities they have access to. If you are in a better league, you train more, with better coach and the effects are drastic. You are on the path to success. Gladwell describes this as “accumulative advantage”.
Another concept Gladwell discusses is the 10,000 hour rule. Most people would agree that “achievement is talent plus preparation”. However, the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted the smaller the role of innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role of preparation seems to play. So preparation and practice is what results in high achievement. Gladwell then goes on to track the rise of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They were both born in the perfect year to get exposure to technical advances at the right time to get the 10,000 hours of coding practice before most. And the rest is history.
The second half of the book is about legacy. Gladwell argues that “each of us has his or her distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions handed down by the history of the community we grew up in. “ We are a product of our history and there is no escaping that. For some that is difficult for some to accept. He comments about people being “squeamish”. However, I am seeing it as an opportunity to embrace and enhance.
One way our history plays a role is through the cultural mottos. I loved Gladwells’s exploration into the Chinese motto “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fail to make his family rich”. He discussed how the result of that motto has resulted in a community with a strong work ethic.
To conclude, Gladwell believes we are in love with the rags to riches ideology “because we find something captivating in the idea of a lone hero battling overwhelming odds.” As a result we fall for these stories and don’t look harder for the truth. Actually most peoples stories are filled with opportunities which have resulted in their rise.
I absolutely loved this book and found it a refreshing view on the reasons why people are successful. It also leaves great food for thought for an individual. How can you use your story, your time of birth and your cultural legacy to help support your rise to success?