Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Book Information
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Publication Date:
MSRP: $27.99
Format: Hardcover
Available from
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Powell's

"Why do some people succeed far more than others?"

That is a question we ask ourselves almost everyday. The world is filled with rags to riches stories about individuals who through sheer determination, guts, grit, intelligence and ambition fight the odds to become "successful." In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell seeks to to understand how people thrive by looking around them. Who are their parents? Where do they live? What is their birthdate? What is their cultural background? Gladwell's findings are shocking and astounding.

Want to know the secret to becoming a world class hockey player in Canada? At first glance, you might think that being an incredible hockey player requires you have an innate talent. But as Gladwell takes you through the rosters of successful hockey teams, you will start to notice an unnerving pattern. All world star hockey players are born in January, February or March. The same applies to successful lawyers in New York City. All of them have the exact same resume and are Jewish.

The reason? The eligibility date for hockey leagues is January 1. Therefore, children born in December are a full 11 months behind in their physical development compared to their teammates born in January. For boys in the middle of puberty 11 months is a huge different in physical strength, height and agility.

As for why all the most successful NYC lawyers are Jewish. Chalk that one up to good old discrimination. Unable to be hired in the prominent WASP firms back in the 1960's they started their own firms and were able to turn them into powerhouses by accepting cases that their WASP counterparts weren't willing to dirty their hands with - hostile company takeovers.

But along with all the "success" stories, Gladwell examines many "failures" as well. He strives to show us that really successful people, or outliers, really aren't outliers after all. They aren't any smarter than the rest of us. They don't possess some innate talent that the rest of us don't have. They weren't "special." All of their stories follow a peculiar and unexpected logic that explains their road to success. In essence, he takes the romance out of the rags to riches story and presents us with the cold hard truth. People who are "successful" were all given an opportunity and had the strength and presence of mind to seize it.

This a book everyone should pick up and read. While it might be too late for us to become as successful as Bill Gates or the Beatles, at the very least we can use our influence to give someone else a chance.


No comments:

Post a Comment