This week’s post will be a quick hit review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. Malcolm Gladwell has written a few books (including this #1 National Bestseller) and has a fairly popular podcast, which is thought provoking and analytical.
The analytical pieces of Gladwell’s writing appeal to me most, although I am not sold on the principle concept of this book. In his first example, Gladwell highlights how the vast majority of professional hockey players are born in the first quarter of the year (January-March). Using quite a bit of logic Gladwell pieces together that development leagues favor kids who are more mature, in both physical size and emotional fortitude. Since kids born in the first quarter of the year have a few months advantage in development over their peers, they have a much better opportunity to succeed in the current system. This is a quick snapshot and certainly does not cover all the nuances Gladwell examines.
I have some beef with this perspective. To start, as one of the first examples in a book titled Outliers, an example of how professional hockey players birth dates all fall within a small window seems like support for the opposite of an outlier. Also, I feel as though what makes success stories great sometimes is the theme of being unique and overcoming the odds, beating the status quo. This first example at least did not light this fire for me personally.
As a science minded person I love statistics and data. Gladwell certainly loads his book with references and catchy statistics. To summarize some major points of the second half of the book, here is a quick list of my key takeaways. 1) Hard work pays off, but hard work and fortunate timing makes for greatness. 2) Find a niche that suites your skills and not many other people care to do for a living. 3) (The most relevant point for me as a young dad) There are many examples of hard work producing success, but successful parents open the door for very successful children.
There are several ‘nuggets’ of information making this book worthy of a quick read. I am not particularly a fan of Gladwell’s grandiose examples, but he uses them in a way to get his point across. I think there could easily be a book written to refute each of his examples, but perhaps that is part of what his book is about. The outliers that find a way to find success in unlikely places are unique and deserving of recognition. I hope someday any accomplishments or accolades I may receive are met with the kind of attention Gladwell shows these underdogs. Peace.