Posted August 1, 2009 in Self-Insight, What We're Reading

By: Malcolm Gladwell

Reviewed By: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: In his third offering, Malcolm Gladwell explores the hidden contributors that allow certain people to attain high levels of success. Challenging the assumptions that intelligence and ambition are the main ingredients that foreshadow future success, Gladwell paints an interesting – and somewhat disturbing – provocation that maybe timing, culture, upbringing and pure luck have bigger impacts than we realize on ones ability to achieve big success. Through a series of examples, the book explores the back stories of some famous achievers including Bill Gates and the Beatles and also looks at individuals who had all the right ingredients – intelligence, ambition – but never quite seemed to make the leap to the big leagues.

The Bottom-line: As a member of my book club aptly stated: “books like this are like brain candy”. Don’t buy this book and expect to uncover the formula to help you achieve higher success in your career. If anything, you may find yourself cursing your bad luck for being born in October versus January (depending on what your NHL ambitions were). What Outliers does is point to some of the structures that we put in place that, frankly, limit talent. From hockey drafts, to streaming kids into “gifted” programs to the effects of cultural upbringing/language, Gladwell produces some fascinating arguments that make you question long-held assumptions about what allows for success and may make you think (about your own life) “what if”? For those of you who also read Geoff Colvin’s book “Talent is Overrated”, you will see similarities in the findings around racking up hours of practice (Gladwell defines it at 10,000 hours) but Gladwell’s book delves much deeper into the idea that luck may play a bigger factor than we want to admit. Scary stuff.

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