The Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is a nonfiction text. It incorporates a straightforward writing that presents clear points that are easy to grasp for the readers. In the course of the book, Gladwell emerges as a rational and a lively writer with a skill of presenting complex things in a simple way. The text provides rational explanations to various apparent mysteries, twists of fate, and day to day challenges. The author presents his work through logical reasoning and incorporating shrewd expressions that explain the occurrence of various social phenomena. This book attempts to dissipate the myth of individualism as a viable explanation for their emergence. The author presents various aspects which he believes to be the triggers for success. He delves into the causes of skill testing tendencies, exceptional cultural performances, and personal triumphs in the past American society and right through the world.
The main argument of the author is that the aspects of upbringing have pronounced influences on the probability of individuals’ to prosper. According to Gladwell, such influences are brought about by the culture of the community, access to resources, birth dates, parenting methods, and lineage. As such, the author utilizes obscure psychological and sociological information and concepts to generate an enlightening thought-provoking work. The book is therefore presents a passionate argument that seeks to emphatically redefine a reader’s understanding as to what exactly makes people successful by formulating an approach which instructs the reader on how to generate opportunities for a lot of people who might otherwise not achieve success.
In the book, Gladwell presents ‘Outliers’ as those men and women who are able to do things which are by and large extraordinary. He is however quick to refute the myth of a self-made man. However, it is important to note that the examples of outliers that the author uses in the course of the book are exclusively male characters. The book presents that contrary to the popular notion that success is usually a function of personal merit and that the community within which people are brought up and the principles that people choose to espouse as a society do not matter at all, the successful people reach their prominence through a blend of aptitude, opportunity, and random advantage.
The aspect that makes the book more captivating is the author’s ability to provide fascinating examples. Some of the examples that the author presents are well-known while others are enigmatic. In order to elucidate this notion, people who are familiar with the early career of the Beatles is able to remember the period when they were striving in anonymity in dingy clubs in Germany. According to Gladwell such opportunities provided them with a critical chance to mount up to 10,000 hours of practice which was essential to achieving their world class status. He further presents the example of Bill Gates who emerges as a more ambitious young programmer than majority of other young programmers. However, the Gladwell makes the reader discover that the school that Bill Gates attended had a computer club while almost every other school did not have such a club. Gates further ceased the opportunity to use computers when he attended the University of Washington where he spent thousands of hours as a programmer. As such, Gladwell presents Gates as having been lucky enough to have access to a computer at an early age that enabled him to enhance his software design skills. He wonders how many other teenage students had similar experience to Gates by early 1970s.
Consequently, the author highlights aspects of birth apparent in the tale of Joe Flom. Flom is an attorney from New York who initiated and immensely developed the legal field relating to the corporate law on the subject of takeover. To Gladwell, sFlom was lucky to be the descendant of immigrant parents of Jewish origin who had a proven and strong work ethic in the garment business. Accordingly, the author notes that Flom and various other prodigies had been born in the early years of 1930s. According to Gladwell, people who were born in the early 1930s demonstrated a ‘demographic trough’ that made sure that they would have access to a quality education system and that they would encounter a fairly reduced amount of competition when they eventually move in the job market.
Gladwell further explains the benefits of birth coincidences by considering birth dates of hockey players in Canada which she observes are usually between January and March. He concludes that about 40 percent of the Hockey players have their birth dates between January and March. As such, he attributes this scenario to the fact the deadline for the admission into the hockey leagues is usually 1st January. According to him, this means that the older players are more probable that he will have superior physical qualities that will justify their selection to the all-star teams. The author believes that such opportunity affords the selected player an excellent opportunity to receive better training and also secure advantages that enable them enhance their sporty careers.
The second part of the book is more dedicated to the discussion of the cultural aspects that are responsible for contributing to the success or an increase in the probability of failure. Gladwell provides an intriguing discussion regarding what he refers to as the ‘ethnic theory of plane crashes’ (177). With regard to the foregoing, Gladwell provides a description of a thing referred to as the ‘Power Distance Index’ which relates to the extent to which a certain culture respects and values authorities. He narrates how this thing was responsible for the deteriorating safety records of the Korean Air during the 1980s and 1990s. According to Gladwell, the disastrous situations were as a result of the too much respect accorded to the superiors by the junior members of flight crews.
Towards the end, Gladwell provides a practical solution that would prove vital in overcoming the cultural hindrances to generate a different and exclusive approach to success. He gives examples of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) in New York City as well as fifty other model schools within America (250). In these institutions, Gladwell observes that kids from destroyed regions are provided with extra school hours, rigorous academic and enhancement programs, and usually have reduced summer holidays. As a result of these programs, the author observes that about 90 percent of the children who participate in such programs end up getting scholarships to parochial or private high schools and that about 80 percent end up attending college.
In order to generate a better world, Gladwell suggests the replacement of what he refers to as the “patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages” that people rely on such as the “fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history” to determine success with a society that offers equal opportunities for every person (168). Succinctly, the book submits that the aspect of genius is usually exaggerated and that success is not solely based on inherent abilities but it is rather a generated through a combination of aspects such as opportunities, cultural legacy, and meaningful productivity (69). This is apparent when he states thus, “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. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities-and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (267). Accordingly, Gladwell suggests that the time and place where one was born and nurtured can have a positive of negative influence on the opportunities a person comes upon.
This is a thought-provoking, persistently charming, and a witty book that consistently challenge the readers’ astuteness and which has the ability to change the way people perceive success within the American society and the world at large. A closer reading of the book would most likely trigger a lasting positive thinking to the reader and a conceivable transformation to the world. This is because the information provided in the book regarding the personal stories of success has the effect of influencing individuals to seize ever opportunity that is presented to them. The book also enlightens the reader that mastery can only be achieved through hours and hours of dedication.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. Back Bay Books, 2011.
Cowley, Jason. “Stating the obvious, but oh so cleverly.” The Guardian 23 Nov. 2008. Web. 21
Leonhardt, David. “Chance and Circumstance.” New York Times, 28 November 2008. Web. 21
Sturrock, Matt. “Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.” Little, Brown and
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Wilson, Jesse. “Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success.” WordPress 2013. Web. 21 Nov.