Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
One of my favorite parts of Outliers is when Gladwell discusses the role chance plays in success. Not luck precisely, but timing. While he acknowledges how important hard work is (this is the book that describes the key level of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice), there is also the matter of being in the right time and place for events to coincide with that deliberate practice and create that Outlier.
What do I mean? Well, in his well-known example of Canadian hockey players, those players who were born in the first half of the year were much more likely to succeed as measured by playing in the NHL. Born in the last six months of the year? Your route to the NHL got much, much harder, even if you had the same level of determination and talent and put in the same hard work.
If you find that interesting, the entire book is made up of fascinating tidbits and observations of the same sort.
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
In last year’s series, I featured Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, and it’s a great choice if you like Outliers. His book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is also fascinating, and I enjoyed his latest, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, although it’s probably my least favorite of his books. He’s also got a new book out: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I haven’t read it (I’m way down the holds list at my library), but I’m hoping it’s good.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
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