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Outliers: The Story of Success

July 19, 2009

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

What makes someone extraordinarily successful? Being very bright and getting a good education help, but Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, explains that there’s many other factors at work. For example, Bill Gates, at age 13, was given unlimited access to a computer terminal at a time when top computer science professors didn’t have similar access. According to Gladwell, the Beatles, before it became a success, performed in Hamburg, Germany eight hours a day, seven days a week for a year. In both cases, more than 10,000 hours of experience were accumulated, which Gladwell said is key.

Opportunities present themselves. Gates and the Beatles capitalized on them and worked extremely hard. Talent played a role, but it wasn’t talent alone that led to their remarkable success. Perhaps this is obvious, but Gladwell explains the forces at work in a clever and enlightening way. He had my attention from beginning to end.

Timing also plays a key role in success, Gladwell said. For example Gates, Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy, and Apple’s Steve Jobs were born within six months of one another. Gladwell argues that if they—and others that experienced great success in computing—had not been born in late 1954 or 1955, they probably would not have experienced the success they did. Bill Gates would not be Bill Gates, as we know him.

Gladwell goes on to say why it’s unlikely for someone born in December to become a professional hockey player. Most elite hockey players are born in the first three months of the year and Gladwell explains way.

I found Outliers to be a fascinating read and one that I highly recommend. Gladwell makes clear that if someone is bright, benefits from some luck, and puts in 10,000 hours of hard work, he or she can go to great heights in life. You don’t have to be a genius or attend a top university to experience extraordinary success.

If you have not yet read Outliers, you should. It’s an excellent book.