I just finished reading the book Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t pretend to be an astute interpreter of social comment or literary works, but I found this book fascinating. What apparently started as an investigation of the super-successful, in search of clues we might all use to improve our chances in life, became a revealing study of human socio-economic hierarchies, family and social histories, and just plain dumb luck.
Even if you don’t completely buy into Gladwell’s theories, his anecdotal evidence is intriguing and entertaining on many levels. He plots the success of several well-known people; Bill Gates, The Beatles, and others, and concludes that pure chance had as much to do with their mega-success as their natural talents, and their willingness to work very hard. By the way, he does not dismiss the talent and work ethic as major reasons for success, he just points out the several and incredible strokes of luck that contributed heavily to these people’s rise to the top. In the process, he concludes that these same factors influence how well your second-grader may, or may not, succeed in school.
Much more complete, and overwhelmingly positive, reviews are available on Amazon, but there are a handful of negative opinions as well. It’s a relatively short book, about 300 pages, and for my part, I think it’s well worth the read. At the very least, it should contribute to a spirited dialogue about how we view and measure success, especially in our young.