I've often felt somewhat disadvantaged. You see, I had a good upbringing in a loving family, with hard working parents. And, following in the footsteps of my older brother decided to go to University where I gained a great degree in computer science.
If you listen to enough talks and read enough books on success a theme quickly emerges – people that have great success did it in reaction to misfortune. Terrible poverty, dysfunctional parents, illness, bankruptcy and so on feature in the stories of many. And, let’s face it those rags to riches stories often make good listening.
Not having had any of those or any other major challenges I began to feel that I shouldn’t be succeeding and clearly could only go ‘so’ far encumbered by my privilege.
In Outliers – The Story of SuccessOutliers – The Story of Success , Malcolm Gladwell tells it differently. Firstly an outlier in science is something that doesn’t fit the typical bell-curve. In the context of successful people it’s those who achieve extreme success – create the most successful companies, make the most remarkable breakthrough, are awarded Nobel prizes, become the best sports stars and so on. Outliers argues that these people all had advantages.
It’s true that some of the advantages may be seen as negative ones. But, just as often they are advantages of timing, events, place, birth date, culture, socio/economic class coupled with the wherewithal and hard-work ethic to use the advantage.
If this doesn’t sound terribly profound, consider that being born in December would scupper your chances to become a world-class hockey player and being born in August could make it much harder to become a British football star – irrespective of your talent.
A couple of months ago I watched a TV documentary on the BBC called “The Making of Me” about Vanessa Mae the child prodigy violinist who entered the music scene with a bang at the age of 10. It asked the question of her incredible talent was it ‘nature or nurture’. One of the researchers had studied many musical superstars and found that each of them had 10,000 hours of practice before ‘making it’.
Gladwell sites 10,000 as the magic number of hours to create an expert. Bill Gates and Bill Joy managed to get 10,000 hours of computer programming in before most people even knew what a computer was – fundamentally down to when and where they were born.
Both of Gladwell’s previous books Blink and Tipping Point are brilliant – combining research, great stories and something different from the common knowledge. Outliers is even better. It doesn’t provide a list of actions but it is brilliantly written, brings a new perspective and helps you see things just a little differently.
Format: Audio book, 7 hrs 17 mins Audio book, 7 hrs 17 mins and Book, 300 pages Book, 300 pages
Author: Malcolm Gladwell