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You are who you are based on factors beyond your immediate control...

  • Jan 25, 2009
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+5
In the blogging circles I follow, it's been nearly impossible to miss the frequent mentions of the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I requested a review copy of the book, as I'm not sure I'd get through our library hold list for the next six months given the popularity of the book. I'm glad I made the effort to get a copy, as Outliers does an excellent job in destroying the common myths of what it takes to be successful.

Contents:
Introduction - The Roseto Mystery
Part 1 - Opportunity: The Matthew Effect; The 10000-Hour Rule; The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1; The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2; The Three Lessons of Joe Flom
Part 2 - Legacy: Harlan, Kentucky; The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes; Rice Paddies and Math Tests; Marita's Bargain; A Jamaican Story
Notes; Acknowledgments; Index

The first example of "success" involves a sport I know and love... junior hockey. It's generally thought that at the Junior A level (just short of professional), the stars are ones that have worked harder and have more skills than others who haven't made it to this level. But after looking at player statistics, Gladwell noticed something interesting. Nearly all the players have birthdays in the January/February range. Coincidence? Not really... It turns out that January is the age cutoff for players. Players born in January are the oldest of their class year. They are bigger than other kids in the same year. At the age of five, those five to eight months of difference creates a significant edge. The January players get noticed, and get more attention than others. This attention leads to more opportunities, which makes them better, which gives them more opportunities, etc. The kids born towards the end of the class year don't end up with the same advantages as they're smaller. The net result is that these Junior A stars may think that they've achieved this level through pure skill, but the real answer is that they've achieved quite a lot simply by being born in January...

Gladwell uses this insight to dig into other success stories and general assumptions (such as all Asians being good at math). In all the cases, he found solid evidence to point to other external factors that gave these people and groups an edge beyond "hard work". The Asian/math phenomenon can be tied back to language that enables young children to understand math concepts much more easily than does English. Korea Air plane crashes were not due to Koreans being bad pilots. It was tied to a culture of deference that kept crew members from openly questioning the captain, thereby forcing communication to follow a ritualized pattern to avoid offense. Once you're made aware that the "lone wolf" pattern is rarely a complete story, Gladwell's findings cause a lot of things to fall into place when it comes to achievement. Basically, you are who you are because of those who came before you.

I really enjoyed this book. I've often thought there had to be more behind the "self-made man" stories, and Gladwell confirms it. That's not to say that someone can't overcome the odds, that they can't be born in December and become a hockey all-star. But it forces you to look behind the obvious feel-good stories to find other answers. Even if you don't agree with the conclusions that Gladwell reaches, you'll be forced to think. A recommended read...

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More Outliers: The Story of Success reviews
review by . August 03, 2013
Malcolm Gladwell will have a new book out this fall, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.     Here's the bumph from his publisher Little, Brown. "Malcolm Gladwell,...   uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed. Gladwell examines the battlefields of Northern Ireland and Vietnam, takes us into the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, and …
review by . July 15, 2010
The common conception is that success is based upon intelligence: Orientals are more intelligent, therefore they excel in academics; the poor, living in slums, are not bright, therefore they achieve little or no success. Gladwell demonstrates with many examples that his notion is wrong.             Scientists have found that the people of Roseto, for example, of Italian descent, live longer than their neighbors or their ancestors because they …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Great book! Very motivating and an interesting study in social economics. Really made me want to read more by Malcolm Gladwell.
review by . May 24, 2010
Is Malcolm Gladwell just stating the obvious when he says really successful people achieve their success through a series of advantages? He labels such people as "outliers," a use of the word not sanctioned by the English dictionary. He's not interested in run-of-the-mill kinds of success, but of really huge kinds of success, like Bill Gates or The Beatles. Let me begin by saying that I found this book fascinating, and made my way through its 285 pages rapidly, eager to see what was on the next …
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
I absolutely love this book! Gladwell explores the various ways and circumstances that allow people to be successful or not. Very interesting, as can be expected!
Quick Tip by . April 17, 2010
I loved Outliers - if you liked it you'll probably like Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics...as well as Gladwell's other books, of course.
review by . December 14, 2009
As many people at work were raving about this book I needed to read it for myself. I was a little reluctant at first because of some of the Amazon reviews saying that Gladwell culled information from a lot of studies and that the reader would be better served going to some of those studies themsleves.       Gladwell has done an excellent job of poring through mountains of data and presented many of these studies in a concise way that can be understood by any layman. Most of the …
review by . December 14, 2009
As many people at work were raving about this book I needed to read it for myself. I was a little reluctant at first because of some of the Amazon reviews saying that Gladwell culled information from a lot of studies and that the reader would be better served going to some of those studies themsleves.    Gladwell has done an excellent job of poring through mountains of data and presented many of these studies in a concise way that can be understood by any layman. Most of the …
review by . February 08, 2010
The common conception is that success is based upon intelligence: Orientals are more intelligent, therefore they excel in academics; the poor, living in slums, are not bright, therefore they achieve little or no success. Gladwell demonstrates with many examples that his notion is wrong.   Scientists have found that the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania, for example, of Italian descent, live longer than their neighbors or their Italian ancestors because they socialize, and the socialization …
Quick Tip by . December 10, 2009
Reading it right now based on so many of my collegues at work raving about it. After about 75 pages it rates four stars.
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Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question inOutliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outlierscan be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0316017922
ISBN-13: 978-0316017923
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: Business & Investing, Health, Mind & Body, Nonfiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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