The OUTLIERS – The story of success
The OUTLIERS – The story of success
A Novel by Malcolm Gladwell
I have always wondered what makes a person extremely successful, and was always taught that with intense will, determination and hard work one could climb up all mountains and achieve any pedestal one might fancy.
Reading outliers has changed my opinion. After understanding Malcolm insights on the life of these “Outliers” from rock stars to professional athletes, to software geniuses, he shows us how this story of success is far more surprising, and more fascinating than we could have ever imagined. It is so non intuitive that it might even come up as shocking.
Malcolm vividly explains how the role of the incidental opportunities, and the legacy of the outliers have an instrumental and a crucial role to play. It is only the perfect combination of successful opportunity, favorable legacy, and of course toiling hard labor, which makes the outlier stands tall above the other. Hence making us believe that no one, not even a genius ever makes it alone. And while all of this, quoting The Times “he is that kind of writer who makes you feel like you are the genius, rather than he’s the genius”. That’s the beauty of his work.
Malcolm starts with explaining the importance of opportunity. No, not the typical “how successful people make the most out of every opportunity”, but the mere existence of some very crucial circumstances which appears as a make or break kind of situation for our outlier. Meanwhile, as with every claim he makes in the book, he proves it with his extensive research through vivid examples. Taking the case of Ice Hockey players in Canada, he shows how the chances of the players making it to the national team depend essentially on, if they were born in the first 3 months of the year, that is January, February or March, showing that 40% of the team strength was born in the first three months, as compared to 10% in the last three months of the year.
The next pearl of wisdom, which one acquires from Gladwell, is the “10,000 hour rule”. Malcolm states that one must put in 10,000 hours of practice to achieve a certain form of perfection in their field. He explains that the Beatles themselves had played live at different stages 1200 times till 1964(before they got their big break). At the same time, they would play on for 8 hours every night. Which makes it 9,600 hours.
Hence Beatles had done their 10,000 hours BEFORE they became a worldwide sensation. Proving the wise old adage- No one becomes a success overnight.
The ten-thousand hour rule applies to all profession alike. Taking example of Bill Gates, he shows us how, Bill was one the lucky few high school student who had access to a computer, and started programming as early as eight grade.
By the time the computer boom happened, he had already tucked in his 10,000 hours in high school, ready to encash it, which led him to dropping out of Harvard. Again, Malcolm beautifully uses this story to explain the importance of both incidental opportunity and immense hard work, which led to Bill Gates success, and in the process Microsoft was born.
The other interesting facet of this book talk about the legacy of the OUTLIER, and how a persons success depends not only on the opportunities presented to him, but also those which were given to his father, grand father, and even great grand father.
The Outlier’s origin, social class, family and economic background are a huge benefactor in his success.
One of my favorite sections is when Malcolm tries to explain the Asian dominance in STEM subjects than their western counterparts. Surprisingly, the proficiency in math is related to the rice paddy farming done in the east. Initially one might one find this absurd, but as you get absorbed in Malcolm’s thorough research to the more you get convinced. And that is the beauty of this book, it redefines the narrative for achieving success, and it does so in a very thought provoking manner.
Lastly I would like to leave you with a quote by the Outlier himself
“The lesson is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?”