I picked up a copy of Outliers knowing that I would enjoy it, but I didn’t predict how much it would motivate me. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, has a simple approach to complicated subjects that appeals to the masses.
There were a few interesting points I thought he made. First, that intelligence is not necessarily a marker for success. That there is a threshold for IQ as related to success, and you only have to be smart enough. This is appealing for someone who will never be defined as a genius or top of her class. Second, that success is largely determined by how much time you put into a project or talent. Mr. Gladwell calls this the 10,000 hour rule. Third, that our family history provides a level of opportunity that we can’t downplay. Basically, no one succeeds alone.
I found the chapter on Harlan, Kentucky particularly interesting. He begins by explaining the series of feuds, most notably the Hatfield-McCoy rivalry, that occurred in the mid 1800′s Appalachian territory. During this time, the mountains and large parts of the South were filled with Scotch Irish immigrants, the descendants of herdsman. He explained that the herdsman were highly individualistic, aggressive towards outsiders, and governed by a “code of honor” that required immediate action if insulted or attacked. After reading about this code, the southern attitude of “kick ass first, ask questions later” made a lot more sense. His theory explains perfectly the feuds that occurred in the 1800′s, the Civil War, the level and type of crime in the South, and why the military is filled with Southern men and women. Coincidentally, my mother’s family is Scotch Irish and I found the chapter an interesting study on our family dynamics.
The tagline of the book is “The Story of Success.” From Bill Gates to the author himself, he shows repeatedly that your success depends on many factors. Intelligence and natural ability plays a limited role in most success stories. Opportunity and culture has more to do with what makes a person succeed than anything else. The book is easy to read, and the stories are interesting.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company