Saturday, September 26, 2009

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This nifty little book can be read in a few hours, but it is hardly filled with as much insight as Gladwell's two previous books The Tipping Point and Blink. Gladwell makes the case in Outliers that highly successful people are more the result of circumstance than intrinsic smarts. He also invokes the 10,000 hour rule and establishes in a compelling fashion that great achievers spend about that much time honing their craft whether it be Bill Gates spending time at the nearby Univ of Washington computer center near his home in hghschool or the Beatles' well known stint playing clubs night after night in Hamburg. These leaders are products of history and community. Their success is grounded in a web of advantages, some deserved, some not, some just lucky. In the end the outlier is not an outlier at all.

For me, the Eureka moment in the book was the last chapter, "Jamaican Story." He describes his own family legacy originating in Jamaica, where his great-great-great-grandmother was bought as a slave. The owner fathered a light-colored son, who was spared a life of slavery. His mother's education was the result of riots in 1937 that led to schooling opportunities and the industriousness of a Chinese grocer who was willing to loan the family money for education.