Taken literally, Outlier may mean abnormal experiences that lie outside the norms. For instance, it is a known phenomenon that during summer, Paris will have warm temperatures and sometimes hot temperatures. However, if there happens to be a very cold day in the middle of August in Paris, people will not understand this. This experience lies outside the norms. People will quickly brand this day an ‘outlier.’ Even though people know a lot about why summer is worn in Paris, they may not be in a position to explain this ‘abnormal’ day. In the same way, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell is a story of people who have gone out of their way to becoming outliers. They are ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary feats that make them extraordinary people. This is a revealing story of how people crudely understand success and how they miss the point in their quest to become successful.
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This book, to some extent, gives the reasons as to why we have less successful people albeit the surging numbers of ambitious people. Gladwell appreciates the fact that bookstores have volumes of books explaining how to become successful, yet, this success only exists on paper, not in a real-life situation. However, it emerges that the problem is not that people do not understand what they read; they focus solely on the successful individual they are reading about, and forget about the environment that surrounds them. People are busy looking at the tallest trees in the forest instead of looking at the forest as a whole. Gladwell concurs that there are factors outside one’s control that influence success. For instance, he talks of birthdays and how they relate to success in different fields. The bottom line of this book is that; extreme conditions, speak loudest about the way we think and act and that we learn a lot from these situations.
Outlier and the Social Perspective
The social perspective on success is somewhat misinformed, guided by fiction and fantasies. Many people in the contemporary world think that successful people became successful solely because of their efforts or luck in few instances. However, there is more to success than sheer hard work and luck. Gladwell (2008) notes that “Success is not a function of individual talent; It is the steady accumulation of advantages” (p. 8). This comment throws the reader into deep thinking about the hitherto held beliefs on success. The social perspective on success is a systematic protocol, where one has to go to school, read hard, get good grades, get a well-paying job, and eventually become that esteemed chief executive officer in one of the well-known companies in the world.
Gladwell begs to differ with this long-held belief about success. What makes people like Bill Gates so outstanding? There are factors (outliers) that determine one’s success. For instance, Gladwell (2008) posits that most successful football and hockey players are born between January and March (p. 9). This realization makes people understand success better. It helps, say a father who has been pushing his son to become the best footballer in the world, to understand why such a thing may not happen, not in the near future. In an interview on the book, Gladwell says that “…There is a magic year to be born if you want to become a successful software engineer” (Smith, 2009). Outliers are a revolution to the minds of many concerning success in any given field, be it academic or games.
“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” (Gladwell, 2008, p. 20). How many of us have ever thought in these lines? This story of success changes the social perspective on success and answers many questions that have remained unanswered for a long. It explains why several people may go to the same school and those who did not perform well in class go ahead and become successful more than the bright students in the class become. People can now understand better that success is a group issue, not a solo expedition. Real success is all about people who have been given the opportunity and have the guts and strength coupled with a strong mentality to clutch them. Intelligence may play a big part in success; however, what really matters is a real experience.
For instance, the story of Bill Gates depicts how opportunity and experience play in concert to make success a reality. At this point, he states that “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good; it is the thing you do that makes you good” (Gladwell, 2008, p. 16). To emphasize the value of experience in success, he says that it takes over 10,000 hours to master a skill. This comes out clearly in Bill Gates’ case. In this case, Bill Gates’ high school had a computer club. What does this imply? This is an opportunity that many people did not have. After completing high school, Bill Gates went to the University of Washington where he used computers more often. This qualifies Gladwell’s hypothesis that we have to practice something for more than 10,000 hours to master it. Again, an opportunity came in the way of Gates coupled with numerous instances of practice. Therefore, by the time Gates was 20, he had already spent 10,000 hours on programming, hence his subsequent success.
These revelations shape the social perspective on success. People begin to appreciate the value of experience. Success is not an overnight venture, as many would love to think. It takes time to master the skills for one to become outstanding. In the wake of these events, society starts to appreciate the long process of success. With Outliers, parents will not be expected to take their students through the school system without allowing them to go for attachments and expect them to be successful immediately without experience. This disqualifies the notion held by many parents that their children have to go to good schools for them to be successful. These schools may not solely determine the success of those children.
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The other perspective that Outliers shape social perspective is when it comes to cultural influences. To this he says, “Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them” (Gladwell, 2008, p. 46). The reason why Tiger Woods and Bill Gates became successful is that they grew up around parents who encouraged them to do the things they wanted and loved to do.
The culture in which these two kids grew up is a culture that allows someone to do what she or he likes most. In the process, this person will do more of this work and in the end, will accomplish the 10,000-hour experience needed to master a skill. According to Hochman (2009), when it comes to culture Outliers urges people to think in ways that will nurture one’s talents but not what the culture thinks is correct. The innate talent should drive an individual as opposed to doing what people think is socially acceptable.
Finally, Outliers talks about determinants of issues like plane crashes. Gladwell (2008) observes that there is a strong link between plane clashes and the origin of the pilot (p. 96). After a long time of keen observation, Gladwell notices that pilots who are involved in plane crashes frequently come from a given culture. This shapes the social perspective regarding accidents and lets people realize that there is more to plane crashes than just accidents.
‘Outliers’ is a story of success by Malcolm Gladwell. From the book, it is clear that success is not a one-man expedition but a group work. It is not enough to have a high IQ; it takes more than this to be successful. Society is meant to know that opportunity coupled with luck and experience leads to success more often. The story of Bill Gates gives more insight into this winning combination to success. The social perspective changes a great deal in the wake of revelations in the Outliers. Culture comes into context and we understand that on top of opportunity, luck, and experience, culture plays a big role in ensuring that someone is successful. Bill Gates and Tiger Woods grew around parents who encouraged them to do what they wanted. If anything, “We overlook just how large a role we all play–and by ‘we’ I mean society–in determining who makes it and who does not” (Gladwell, 2008, p. 69). Even though Outliers at some point borders inconsistency, it helps to change the social perspective on success a great deal; success is more than what we think.
Gladwell, M. (2008). The Outliers. Little Brown and Company: New York.
Hochman, D. (2009). Malcolm Gladwell on Outliers: The Story of Success. Web.
Smith, E. (2009). Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. The Telegraph. Web.