Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Newest Reading Recommendation

Success depends on many factors, says bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Truth is we may actually control somethings and yet others are already written before we get started in our lives and our ultimate dreams.

In his newest book, Gladwell argues that the success of extraordinary people -- so-called outliers - depends at least as much on outside factors such as culture, family and the time in which people grow up, as intrinsic factors such as talent or intelligence. A lot of people would say, sure that's true and obvious. Although we kind of know that, we don't often act on it.

In "Outliers," Gladwell employs the same recipe as his two humongous best sellers, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink". Both popularize scientific, sociological and psychological theories in a fashion that makes for Big Intriguing Concepts: "The Tipping Point" promotes the notion that ideas and fads spread in much the same way as infectious diseases do, while "Blink" theorizes that gut instincts and snap judgments can be every bit as good as decisions made more methodically.

The book, creatively tries to explain the real reason some people — like Bill Gates and the Beatles — are successful. Much of what Mr. Gladwell has to say about superstars is little more than common sense: that talent alone is not enough to ensure success, that opportunity, hard work, timing and luck play important roles as well.

In "Outliers", Mr. Gladwell explains the stories of the Beatles and Bill Gates success are not distinguished by "their extraordinary talent but their extraordinary opportunities." The Beatles became the Beatles, he suggests, because they happened to be invited, repeatedly, to Hamburg, Germany, where they had to perform many hours an evening for many nights — practice time that enabled them to hone their craft. Mr. Gladwell does not explain why other groups, who practiced as much as the Beatles, never became one of the seminal rock groups of all time, or why groups like the Rolling Stones or the Beach Boys, who didn't play as many Hamburg shows as the Beatles, also went on to shape music history.

In much the same fashion, Mr. Gladwell suggests that Bill Gates became Bill Gates because he was lucky enough to attend a high school that "had access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968" and because he had another series of opportunities to spend hours working on computer programming before dropping out of Harvard to start his own software company. Both the Beatles and Mr. Gates, Mr. Gladwell argues, exceeded or came close to what he calls "the 10,000-Hour Rule" — the number of hours of practice that a neurologist named Daniel Levitin says are likely required "to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything." One of the facts, says Mr. Gladwell, Mr. Gates had the good fortune to be born in 1955 — one of the optimum years to be born to take advantage of the personal computer age (BTW so was Apple's Steven Jobs hmmmmm…)

Okay, there is much to suggest that these observations and the basic hypotheses rely heavily on suggestion and innuendo, but the various anecdotes and studies add to our curiosity on "why not me".

A good read, yes. Factual in nature, somewhat.

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