Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BOOK: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (7 h 18 min)

What makes a person a success? Hard work and pluck? Malcolm Gladwell takes his 'anecdotes to explain theories' book concept to examine success. What makes these outliers work?

I feel I've read this before although I know I haven't. Some of the ideas from the book have already become ingrained in our collective understanding of success. 

For example, Gladwell examines the role that birth month has on successful hockey players. We now realize that players born in January, February and March are much more likely to make it to the NHL. They are just that much older and bigger in the beginning of minor hockey when 7 and 8 year olds begin to play. Their slight age advantage makes them stand out, and get picked for travelling teams. They get better coaching and more practice and thus progress faster. And suddenly, it's not necessarily hard work and natural talent that gets you to the NHL - being born in January is an automatic advantage.

I am also already familiar with the 10,000 hours idea - that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice of anything to become an expert. That's why overnight successes are never that, the hours of practice have been put in.  Did you know that of the biggest names in computer technology - Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and some other technology icons were born within eight months of each other.  They were in the right spot at the right time to become interested and have the ability to work with computers at the same time.

Other examples he covers in this book related to the culture you are born into include: why Asians are better in math, why South Korean airlines had so many accidents in the 90s, how feud fights in Eastern Kentucky and a culture of honour also seen in the southern states relate back to a Scottish/Irish shepherding background. It's all quite fascinating!

I can see how this book led to his book David and Goliath, and maybe even includes leftover research. They cover the same theme: success is not based on what you think it might be. Success is more to do with luck of location or hereditary, and what we perceive as a disadvantage may not actually be one. 

Gladwell narrates his own books and he has a good style. His books are so interesting and he covers so many ideas, I could easily re-listen to any of his books again and still feel like I am learning new things.