Malcom Gladwell: Outliers. The story of success
- Can the year when you were born influence your success in life?
- If you have an IQ of 130, do you have the same chance of winning a Noble prize as one with 200?
- Does your cultural background really matter to achieve success?
And the answer to all these questions is …
SUCCESSFUL / OUTLIERS
An outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.
Let’s take the example that you want to join the Junior Canadian Hockey League. Your goal is to become a really successful hockey player. You should also know that in Canada the eligibility cutoff for age-class is January 1st. That means that if you turn 9 on January the 2nd, you will be playing the whole year with 8 year old colleagues. This gives you a huge advantage over your friend that will turn 9 in December, for example.
You have one year advantage in physical strength, speed, accuracy and you will probably be seen as one of the “talented” ones. This gives you higher chances of being selected to play in one of the bigger teams in the region. Where the story will repeat, and you will be selected to play in the Major Junior A team.
In this case, even the month you were born has a major impact on your success. The author adds it perfectly.
“It is those who are successful who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success.”
In football is the same. If you want to reinforce this idea, just try a Google search on your national under-19 football team. Count how many players are born in the first half of the year, and how many in the second.
You think that Bill Gates birth year didn’t had any influence of his success with Microsoft? By the time the computer revolution came around 1975, one should have been old enough to be part of it, but not too young to miss it. Ideally one should have been 20 or 21. Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955. “Gates is the hockey player born on January 1st.”
The book is split in two parts.
The first one is called “Opportunity”. In its chapters, it describes in more detail the previous given examples and many other. He also refers to a rule called “The 10.000-Hour Rule”. It’s the magical number that every successful person invested in achieving success. In any field, with no exception.
The chapter “The trouble with the geniuses” will answer the “Why?” to the question related with the IQ from the beginning. In order for someone to achieve success, a high IQ or practical intelligence it’s not enough. There is something else called the “general intelligence”.
The second part is called “Legacy”. In its chapters the author describes why our backgrounds are important and can be a prediction to one’s success. Why coming from a Jewish family that immigrated into USA, had a big influence on you becoming a well know lawyer. In “Harlan, Kentucky” you will understand why traditions and attitudes, which we inherit from our forebears, can have a huge influence on success even after 100 years.
The typical myth of Asians being better at solving math problems was also revealed. It all comes down on how they express numbers. Let’s think at a simple but revealing example.
If in English we use eleven, twelve for 11 and 12, the Chinese use a much easier system: they transform them into ten-one, ten-two. For twenty, thirty they use two-tens, three-tens. When it comes to adding, they don’t need to make the conversion in their head from the word to a number. They have directly the number, and therefore arithmetical computations are easier.
With this advantage, an Asian child of 4 years old can count to 40 already, while an American child can count only to 15. Only at age 5 he will be able to count until 40, being one year behind the Asian with the basic math skills. As it was described before, with this small advantage, he will gain more.
“When it comes to numbers, the Asians have a built-in advantage.”
Many other interesting questions are answered by the author using this book, for example:
- Does having an American captain and crew on a flight will reduce the risk of plane crashes than having Korean pilots?
- Can the school summer vacation make the difference to success if you come from a wealthy family or a poor family?
- Being a farmer at a rice paddy gives you an advantage in achieving success than a wheat farmer?
Without a doubt, the answer to all these questions should be known by now. It is Malcom Gladwell’s “Why?” that keeps you reading and gets your attention until the last page.
It is there where he also concludes that
“An outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”
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