A couple of posts ago, I discussed my school assigned summer reading. I began and finished my first book, Outliers, much quicker than I was expecting to. I absolutely ADORED this book, which is bizarre because I generally do not like non-fiction books.
Gladwell discusses people and places that seem to be quite unique, hence the title Outliers. Most of the people discussed are well-known figures whose lives are discussed in schools and paths to success have been reported accurately, or so we thought. While the prosperous people discussed such as Bill Gates, Bill Joy and The Beatles worked hard to become successful, there is a lot more to their stories.
Gladwell also discusses what makes people in general successful. Some small factors that are not often mentioned, but make a huge difference are date of birth, their culture, where they grew up, and their family’s socioeconomic status. Not only does he discuss what is important, but why. There are so many human-created obstacles that many choose to ignore and claim do not affect anything, but they are limiting the success of many. For example, birthday cutoffs in schools and sports teams give older children a greater advantage than younger children.
Another component of this book was cultural legacy and why is affects us today. I found this quite interesting because we live in a world of stereotypes. While they are most certainly not always true, there is a hint of truth behind most of them. Yes, Asians are better at math than those who have European heritage. What is not told along with that stereotype is why. The primary crop grown in China was a rice paddy, much different from the crops grown in the Western world. These crops required a different mindset to grow them. The farmers in China worked hard to make more money off of their crops, while more work in the west did not necessarily lead to more money. The direct correlation between hard work and rewards make a huge impact in their cultural legacy. Their hard work and determination transferred into other aspects of their lives, such as math. Another interesting factor is the many Asian countries do not have a summer break, making a noticeable difference in their educations.
I will say it again and again- I loved this book. I found everything discussed so interesting and understandable. At the beginning of each chapter I would think to myself where is he going with this, but I was consistently surprised he went further into depth.
An interesting aspect of the what Gladwell discussed was the 10,000 hour rule. He claims that in order to become a master of anything, 10,00 hours of practice of that skill are required to master it. This rule was evident in musicians, athletes, and computer programmers. When you think about it, it provides hope to anyone who wants to master anything-if they want to practice for that long. The thought is also somewhat depressing because you may think that you are a master, but nope you have not practiced long enough. The only thing I think I will ever be a master of is sleeping and maybe texting.
How the book was written made a huge difference in my understanding of it. Towards the beginning of the book, Gladwell was discussing how month of birth made a difference in professional hockey players. To further prove his point, he took the commentary from a championship game in Canada and instead of keeping it the way it was, he substituted the players’ birthdays for their names.
I also enjoyed the many tables included in the book. I am a person who enjoys working with numbers and seeing the actual data helped me comprehend what Gladwell was trying to get across.
If you had not read this book, you must read it. Everything in it is relevant to the world we are living in, and if enough young people read it, they can learn how to improve society and create more opportunities and equality for everybody. It improves understanding of why some people are successful and why some are not. It is all a matter of circumstance.
I am currently looking into other books by Malcolm Gladwell and only hope I can learn as much from them as I have learned from Outliers.