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Outliers Review

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Outliers summary

When it comes to success, we are taught from day one that hard work, perseverance and the will to succeed would overcome any obstacle. Every day, the stories of success can be shared and used to inspire others who hope to one day reach similar happiness. The extremely incredible entrepreneur who rose from rags to riches or the tale of the underdog sports team that surprised all competitors and won the championship are the stories that continuously drive the dreams of individuals and make success seem possible to all. But what if success was not attainable for all, regardless of work ethic and all other factors that may contribute to it. What if, based on predetermined occurrences, success was easier for some to obtain because of those occurrences? The Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell, is the author’s compiled study of success and how it very much so can be attributed to all of the normal factors (i.e. talent, work ethic, passion) but are also heavily influenced by the cultural and societal forces that give rise to opportunistic individuals.
Through several cases of well known individuals who are deemed to be successful, we as a society easily fall into the myth that successful people are self-made. Gladwell writes that most successful people “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Gladwell’s definition of an outlier is a person who is out of the ordinary “who doesn't fit into our normal understanding of achievement.” According to Gladwell, great men and women are beneficiaries of specialization, collaboration, time, place, and culture. Those who are successful are not only successful because of their own merit, but because they were born into the right circumstances (i.e time, family, location).
One of the theories that stuck out to be was The Matthew Effect. The theory explains that opportunities are product of timing. In one example, he explains how the best Canadian hockey players are born closer to the magic birthday of January 1. They reap advantages that compound over time because of rules that restrict age limits, therefore allowing bigger players to play against players smaller than them. The bigger players with talent are then separated to train with the best coaches and in the best facilities; eventually becoming successful. Likewise, computer programmers Bill Joy and Bill Gates, who were born in the 1950s, have taken advantage of the age when computers were known to few people by having access to the soon to be revolutionary devises. This advantage allowed them to become industry giants in the 1980s. Gladwell not only dispels the thought that these success were caused because of self-determined individuals, he also shows that genius are not made and not born.
Another theory that Gladwell uses to explain his take on success is the 10,000 rule, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Based on a study, most of the successful patrons in this world are those who have spent a minimum of 10,000 hours working, exercising, and becoming experts at their craft. He does make a distinction, however, saying that success is not guaranteed just because 10,000 hours of practice is clocked on by a person on the path to success. Gladwell uses this to stress the fact that greatness requires enormous time. The examples included are the Beatles' musical talents and how much practice they put into their music, which helped them become one of the greatest musical talents of all time. Bill Gates also met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he was granted access to a high school computer in 1968 when he was 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it over time. The Outliers also focused on cultural legacies, which Gladwell says “persist, generation after generation, virtually intact. Gladwell explains it best when he writes of how a cultural legacy of failure can be transformed into one of success. Outliers is an empowering book that makes its readers feel empowered and worthy of reaching the level of the elite, provided of course they put in their 10,000 hours first. The successful are not necessarily the outliers that society places them in.Gladwell’s argument that success is not solely based on talent is very innovative, thought provoking and revolutionary. They are, however, products of history, timing, heritage, opportunities and of course, hard work. As recipients of unique opportunities, heirs of cultural characteristics, and products of societal orientation, these people had the presence of mind and will to seize these opportunities. This was a great perspective of success and with this book in mind; I will continue adding more hours of practice into my craft, until I reach that magic number.

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