Ever wondered why Albert Einstein, with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 150, revolutionized Physics while Chris Langan, with an IQ of 195, dropped out of school and became a rancher? Or why Bill Gates rose to dominate the software industry while others from the same period, working on the same stuff, couldn’t? There’s no point lost if you never pondered over such questions but, for those who really gave a micro-second thought as to why a handful of people achieve success while majority don’t, “Outliers“, by Malcolm Gladwell, holds the answer.
In our quest to find common traits among achievers we tend to give credit (almost full, in many cases) to individual’s perseverance and hard work but, we often overlook other factors at play behind one’s success. In “Outliers”, Gladwell tries to analyze these seemingly-obvious factors, namely- occupation of your parents, time and year of your birth, cultural legacies, socio-economic conditions, patronage, extraordinary opportunities, and just plain luck. Gladwell, writer at The New Yorker and the author of two other best sellers- The Tipping Point and Blink, writes, “Success is not a simple function of individual merit but it is a product of the world in which one grew up.”
The above judgment seems to undermine the efforts of the individual, isn’t it? Not completely. Gladwell merely suggests that success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities but, only those who have the strength and presence of mind to seize them reaches the pinnacle of success. Gladwell sets forth to unravel the mystery behind the success of Bill Gates, one of the richest people on earth; Bill Joy, referred to as Edison of the Internet; Joe Flom, famous American lawyer; Beatles, one of the most commercially successful rock band; and many others. “Outliers” tries to form a relationship between success and one’s innate abilities and IQ, occupation of parents and occupation of the offspring, among the many others. Gladwell also introduces few management concepts like the Power Distance Index- to explain the Korean Air crash mystery, Uncertainty Avoidance etc. Gladwell, in “Outliers”, takes the concept of observation and root cause analysis to a whole new level.
I really enjoyed the way Gladwell infused interviews and explanatory concepts (graphs, statistics) into the flow of text. Writing with a very comprehensible and jargon-free language, “Outliers” proves to be an easy read and remains enlightening at the same time. Gladwell’s writing style is like that of a thriller writer, who is out there to solve riddles which can easily discombobulate anyone but him. Gladwell has substantiated his findings by drawing inferences from the scientific research carried out, and data collected, by psychologists, sociologists, historians, neurologists and other people from varied disciplines. He also interviews people from diverse socio-economic and cultural background. Doing extensive study and digging out most relevant material for the subject is Gladwell’s specialty. I really appreciate the way Gladwell stick to his journalistic guns- offering insights and opinions where necessary.
One can draw many learning’s from “Outliers”, few of which are like, “Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard than most people”, which explains the reason why Asians excel at math, and success behind KIPP (America’s largest network of charter schools). “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good”, which forms the pillar of success of Beatles, Bill Gates, KIPP’s students. Reading this book has given me new perspective to look at things. To be successful, one must not be smartest of all, but only be ‘smart enough’. After reading Blink, Gladwell’s second book – which in itself is an insightful study of how we unconsciously think or make decisions without really “thinking” on it- I had pegged my expectations high when I started reading Outliers. And thankfully, Outliers lives up to my expectations.
Go read it! You’ll love it!