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Book Review: Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell’s look into the wildly successful

I continue to enjoy books by Malcolm Gladwell.  The latest I’ve read (or more precisely heard) being “Outliers: The Story of Success“. Before I had a chance to get this material first hand though, I listened to a friend review the book for a networking group. And as with Blink, I found a copy in the books-on-CD section of the library – read by Gladwell.  And so once again I enjoyed listening to the book, though my familiarity with the material made the experience seem odd.

Normally one might get a recommendation with a few words, or have only a brief introduction to the topic.  But as I progressed through the book I had the funny feeling that I had actually read that part of the book before;-)  My good friend (Jim) had done such a thorough job of covering the material that the examples and imagery was already complete in my mind – and here I was listening to it again.

Both events proved enjoyable and I see more of what it takes to succeed…


Situations and Images

As I’ve found in his other works, Gladwell makes great use of examples and images of how a situation lies – or in this book – how we lie about a situation.

His work builds example after example of somewhat surprising factors of success.

Wildly successful

If you’re interested in being one of those people that finds a great deal of success, you’ll want to read the book – to understand that success in every field comes at the price of 10,000 hours.

That is – those that are at the top of the game have put those hours in.  Have you? Are you ready to?

But in addition to natural talent and effort, success has often come with surprising coincidences…

Birth, Environment, and History

Gladwell takes a lot of time to show that just exactly when you were born, where you live, and what happened in your family history matters.

His point being that all of these things may matter even more than individual talent and effort.

And this is perhaps where I disagree with his conclusion.

Factors out of your control

I don’t believe much in coincidence, so when Gladell says that it was chance that let some people succeed, I say it was good planning…

Planning by an ancestor who chose one path over others – creating the opportunity.

Planning by parents to allow children to explore and run with their interests.

Planning to be in a good spot when something monumental happened.

Evening the playing field

And so it was with an odd sense that the book wrapped up with a message that I didn’t see coming – that we should work to even out the playing field so that even more outliers could succeed.

But here’s a specific point – I don’t think the world “needs” more outliers – the world needs to give every individual an opportunity to succeed.

And put another way – even if twice as many people “succeeded” like the outliers he mentions did, would it really matter?

Success factors

It appears to me that every outlier takes what might have started as a small advantage, and consciously or not – played that advantage to create a greater and greater gap between themselves and everyone else.

And with that gap came success.

Gladwell suggests that most of that gap is the product of unfair or simply random fate, but as I’ve said, I disagree.

What’s more – he makes no mention of “success” in social terms.  Do these outliers have happier lives than others?

Listen to the book

Once again I’m going to say – if you can listen to Gladwell’s book, do so.  But if you can’t find the book on CD, find a way to get the printed version – I’m confident you’ll enjoy the time with him.

Happy reading.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Outliers

  1. Lea,

    His telling of stories and relating them to the point he’s making is one of the reasons I like reading (or hearing;-) his books.

    Give one a go.


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