Archive for February 1st, 2009

Outliers

Sunday, February 1st, 2009


by Malcolm Gladwell

The Short Take:

Gladwell’s intriguing book is stuffed with interesting information. He certainly accomplishes his mission of demonstrating that success is not the result of mere talent, intelligence, and ambition. But I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Why?

Apparently Bill Gates would be just another geeky looking guy if he’d been born a decade earlier. And if you’re a young Canadian who dreams of playing pro hockey, you better hope you were born in January or February.

Sure the reasons behind these assertions are interesting, but what is one supposed to do with all this information? Would-be parents might take note of the insight that the oldest kids in the first grade have a better shot at academic success than the youngest and plan their pregnancies accordingly. Careful birth timing can also be important to those hoping to raise star athletes.

Otherwise, it’s all very interesting, but why do I need to know this? On the plus side, the book is an intriguing and easy read, and the story about Gladwell’s own family is charming. But the basic premise of this book comes far too late for those of us who are reading it.

A Little Plot.

Of course, there is no plot. But here’s the book in a nutshell:

1. Birth timing is important for a lot of things. Too bad you’re already born.

2. Cultural and family influences on your behavior have more impact on your chances of success than I.Q. Too bad ¬†you’re already born and raised.

3. Success comes from spending 10,000 hours or more practicing/doing/working at whatever it is you expect to succeed at. This goes for everything from playing the violin to becoming a mathematical whiz. That’s about 4 hours every single day for the next seven years. That¬†certainly gives parents validation for nagging their kids to practice, practice, practice. But the rest of us? Too late, man.

Sigh.

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