Manila, Philippines

Good Read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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Temporarily lost my habit of reading with all the busyness and crazyness in the world, but hey now I’m back. Previously read two of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, Blink and The Tipping Point and I liked both of them, the way he argues things from a different perspective than what is dictated by conventional thinking. Some do not appreciate Gladwell’s methodology and research, maybe too good to be true, but I’m open minded to things, and as such, I just absorb a different point of view on things.

Outliers did not disappoint me with regards to this. Here he tries to explain how successful people and organizations succeeded, beyond what we usually think as ingredients such as talent, genes, hardwork etc.
He tries to argue that timing (when one is born or when one comes of age), the context during their maturing years, the generations of cultural values, and even some random arbitrary events could have created a conducive environment for one to succeed, and for another to live a “regular” life.
I will not spoil you of the fun in reading it, so instead, here are some quotable quotes:

We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit. But there’s nothing in any of the histories we’ve looked at so far to suggest things are that simple. These are stories, instead, about people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it, and who happened to come of age at a time when that extraordinary effort was rewarded by the rest of society. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up. 

Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.

Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. They’re products of particular places and environments. 

Further, here are some of my personal notes (minor spoilers here), just so I remember my key take-aways from this book:

  • Opportunities and circumstances. We we may have been randomly chosen as with high potential during childhood (birthdate, height, physical built), and since we got better training and attention compared to peers, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy, thus further distancing our skills-set from our peers.
  • Seemingly randomly chosen cut-off dates on eligibility for school or sports will have far reaching impacts in the years and generations to come, than just that, a mere cutoff date.
  • Industrial developments take time, but sometimes there are exponential booms in technology and progress, such that if one is ready to capitalize on these, then this further boosts one’s chances of success. If you’re living in the right moment of history or time (lucky?) then you can be a successful outlier. Or maybe you got lucky to discover a bug that allowed you unlimited programming time without paying for it? Hint.
  • Granted, Bill Gates and other people were geniuses and gifted, but there are other people who have much higher IQ, or are more gifted but were not as successful. Growing up in a place and time where computer programming became so accessible, and far more fun (compared to before) can really boost one’s skills far beyond older or younger generations.
  • Loved the theory on “power difference”, and how cultural / language differences could have saved crashing airplanes, and affect our language barriers.
  • Why Asians (Chinese, Japanese) are stereotyped as good in math, and why their number conventions is easier to pronounce than how we pronounce Hindu-Arabics. What is the effect of a rice farming economy to their grit and perseverance, vs wheat farmers from the West?
  • Variances in summer vacation times between East and West. Or how a simple helping hand 3 generations ago would unknowingly allow one person to get better education.
  • The Beatles, Mozart are great, but the 10,000 hours before that, that’s something.
  • Garments selling versus other trades.
  • Not to take away individual perseverance and talent, but outside factors can really provide a one-off boost enough to make you an outlier.

Happy reading!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


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