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Outliers: The Story of Success Paperback – June 7, 2011
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"In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today...Outliers is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward."―David Leonhardt, New York Times Book Review
"The explosively entertaining Outliers might be Gladwell's best and most useful work yet...There are both brilliant yarns and life lessons here: Outliers is riveting science, self-help, and entertainment, all in one book."―Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly
"No other book I read this year combines such a distinctive prose style with truly thought-provoking content. Gladwell writes with a high degree of dazzle but at the same time remains as clear and direct as even Strunk or White could hope for."―Atlanta Journal Constitution
About the Author
Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the host of the podcast Revisionist History and the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and What the Dog Saw. Prior to joining The New Yorker, he was a reporter at the Washington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He now lives in New York.
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Malcolm Gladwell explores the different factors that decide the difference between successful and unsuccessful people. We learn what rock stars, geniuses and computer programmers have in common. He explains that success is not just a matter of IQ, but a combination of hard work and opportunity. In Outliers, Gladwell hooks the reader by first providing an anecdote and explaining the common misconceptions that people have about that situation and then completely turns our understanding of how they got to be successful on its head.
This book includes stories of why January first is the ideal birthday for a hockey player, how the work ethic determined by Jewish immigrants making clothes lead to them becoming successful lawyers, how Asians working in rice paddies has developed a culture which excels at math, and how performing for 10,000 hours in Hamburg decided the Beatles’ rise to fame. While this book was enjoyable for this trivia alone, Gladwell manages to change our perception of success entirely, because timing, circumstance, and even luck are major factors that decide a person’s success. Sometimes the disadvantaged actually have all the advantages in the world just because they happened to be born in the right place at the right time. We have to examine all the factors surrounding a successful individual which all had to come together in order for him or her to be an outlier.
Gladwell bases most of his anecdotes and explanations on research conducted by others and I wish he would have gone into more detail about how these studies were conducted and how reliable they actually are but this is the only complaint I have about this book. He is a very charming and enthusiastic story teller, he thoroughly explains his thought process without rambling and kept me interested and engaged throughout the whole book. Overall I enjoyed reading Outliers and I would definitely recommend it to others.
Gladwell's book states early that success doesn't happen in a vacuum. It isn't based on intelligence, but on a variety of factors, and he uses multiple examples to demonstrate that we as a nation could have many more successful people in our country if we were to accept that it takes a village to make successes out of our children. In fact, he shows that hard work and opportunity in almost all cases are more important than intelligence.
One story tells of the Canadian hockey league and the fascinating statistic that the vast majority of all successful hockey players are born in January, February or March. Why? Because the cutoff date for signing children is January 1, and those born in the first three months have a distinct advantage in age, experience and size in relation to those they play against. That same cutoff date is used by other countries, such as the Czech Republic, for not only hockey but soccer as well, which means that children born in the later part of the year consistently are overlooked when it comes to team sports. It's a built-in bias.
These biases are all around us, and determine who succeeds or fails, constantly. In addition, the bias of a culture has a significant effect on how well a student does. Gladwell talks about the belief that Asians are better at math, which he shows is because their languages are more number-friendly, leading children to count earlier, and which make math simpler. In addition, he shows the inherent tradition of hard work of southern China had resulted in a work ethic for their descendants that continues today.
Many of the stories are supported with statistics. One of the most eye-opening to me was his observation of the impact on summer vacation. Statistics show that the amount that lower-, middle-, and upper-class students learn in elementary school each year isn't that significantly different. But when you compare what they learn or forget over summer vacation, there is a significant discrepancy. Upper-class parents keep their children busy with lessons and classes all summer, while in most situations lower and even middle-class students don't do much during the summer and often forget much of what they have learned the previous year. As the summers add up, the problem compounds. And so the difference between upper, middle and lower class widens.
The book is significant, easy to read, and extremely thought provoking. I highly recommend it.