Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
I just finished Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Outliers. It is absolutely fantastic. As soon as I got into chapter one I was reminded of why I enjoy Gladwell’s style so much. It is rich with case studies, stories, and ideas that cause your brain to process things like you’ve never done before. This book is loaded with incredible ideas on why certain people succeed and others don’t. Is it as simple as the best rising to the top? Gladwell argues not. Here are some intriguing ideas from the book:
“The sociologist Robert Merton famously called this phenomenon the ‘Matthew Effect’ after the New Testament verse in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.’ It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine and ten year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologist like to call ‘accumulative advantage.'” “‘The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert–in anything,’ writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. ‘In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.'” “What Hudson is saying is that IQ is a lot like height in basketball. Does someone who is five foot six have a realistic chance of playing professional basketball? Not really. You need to be at least six foot or six one to play at that level, and, all things being equal, it’s probably better to be six two than six and, and better to be six three than six two. But past a certain point, height stops mattering so much. A player who is six foot eight is not automatically better than someone two inches shorter. (Michael Jordan, the greatest player ever, was six six after all.) A basketball player only has to be tall enough–and the same is true of intelligence. Intelligence has a threshold.” “It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”
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