Hi, I keep accidentally reading these books faster than I mean to, but they’ve just been so good lately I can’t put them down. So I just got done with book #53 and I resent myself for not picking up a book by Malcolm Gladwell sooner. I read Outliers: The Story of Success. It was equal parts gripping and informative.
Sometimes I read books or articles like this book, and I wonder if humans are really self-indulgent and narcissistic. I think that to write so much about ourselves means that we must be, but I don’t care if it means that people like Malcolm Gladwell will keep writing books like Outliers.
So this book is a New York Times bestseller, and I’m kind of operating under the assumption that a lot of people have already read it for that reason, or are at least familiar with the premise or familiar with Gladwell himself and his work at The New Yorker.
It’s basically about (as the subtitle implies) success, and the way that we often talk about success compared to the way that we maybe should be talking about success. Gladwell cites the childhood of the smartest man to have ever lived, who most people have probably never heard of, and compares it to the childhood of Bill Gates, who is obviously a famous billionaire.
Through several more examples like the above, he’s essentially arguing that success, and the “rule” of the outliers (which is to say: the rule of those who seem to defy rules and logic, and gain their success against the odds) is rarely, if ever, a result of simple hard work and motivation.
Factors like the success-story’s date of birth, socioeconomic background, extensive family history, etc. must be taken into account and often do just as much to create his or her success as their hard work did.
Gladwell cited startling evidence of patterns in the lives of a wide range of success stories, and it was gripping. It probably sounds boring as I’m describing it, but I finished this in less than 24 hours because I couldn’t stop reading. He also readily disputes all of the common and cliche claims of many success stories (like rags-to-riches, of the myth of the self-made man) with extensive evidence, turning the whole pursuit of success on its head.
It was such a great book. I love reading about this type of sociology, and Gladwell’s writing was so smooth and effective that it read like a suspense novel. I’ve been kind of researching Gladwell since finishing, and I fear that until I get my hands on a copy of Blink, his second book, I won’t be able to read anything else.
Back Bay Books included a reader’s guide at the end of this book, and in one of Gladwell’s answers, he says that his goal was an “[attempt] to make us think about the world a little differently.” Mission more than accomplished, Mr. Gladwell. ◊
To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success—the fortunate birth dates and happy accidents of history—with a society that provides opportunities for all.”
– page 268