Thursday, September 9, 2010
Outliers : The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them--at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. The story of their success is more complex--and a lot more interesting--than it initially appears.
Outliers explains what the Beatles and Bill Gates have in common, the extraordinary success of Asians at math, the hidden advantages of star athletes, why all top New York lawyers have the same resume, and the reason you've never heard of the world's smartest man--all in terms of generation, family, culture, and class. It matters what year you were born if you want to be a Silicon Valley billionaire, Gladwell argues, and it matters where you were born if you want to be a successful pilot. The lives of outliers--those people whose achievements fall outside normal experience--follow a peculiar and unexpected logic, and in making that logic plain Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential. (Image from http://tomorrowsreflection.com/ and summary from book jacket.)
My Review: I devoured this book. Literally I ate up every last sentence; I found it that intriguing. Interestingly, it's not my normal read, just as Freakonomics wasn't my normal read and I devoured that book as well. This was a book club pick and I should admit I was a bit reticent going into reading it. I was afraid it would be dry or hard to follow.
Gladwell's writing is the exact opposite. Outliers is completely engaging and brings up many aspects to the history of success that we typically do not consider when evaluating successful people. Some of my long-time hunches were proved correct. I learned some facts about sports I doubt I would have learned in any other way. My favorite section is the one on IQ. Common sense (although the longer I live the more I realize isn't very common) hints at the findings Gladwells speaks of and his book just confirms them. I most appreciated his vast research of various studies and the evidence of his sources through citations. The footnotes, despite some of their lengths, are just as interesting as the rest of the chapters.
I think everyone should read this book. It puts success into perspective. It gives a face to the true requirements for achievement. (10,000 hours!) I know I'll be recommending it to the principal of my school and co-workers, but friends and family as well. I will also be quoting information to my students!
Rating: 5 Stars.
Sum it up: At look at successful people with the right lens.