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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of SuccessOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I teach at an advanced/gifted charter school. This book is in a classroom set in the history (social studies) class. I'd heard several people talk about the book and decided to read it. The book of course is about "outliers. "What is an outlier?" I'll give you the definition that Gladwell gives:

outlier (1) something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body. (2) a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.

Here are a few of the questions answered in the book:

Why a surprising number of the most powerful (outliers) and successful corporate lawyers in New York City have almost the exact same biography (Jewish men, born in the Bronx or Brooklyn in the mid-1930s to immigrant parents who worked in the garment industry.

Why are there a hugely disproportionate number of professional hockey (outliers) and soccer players (outliers) born in January, February, March?

Why are most successful software entrepreneurs(outliers) born in the same year?

Why are most of the richest people (outliers) ever born within nine years of each other?

Why are most of the pilots involved in plane crashes (outliers) all from the same culture?

Now to some quotes from the book. As you read the quotes please note that our Savior is the only one that can determine most if not all of the facts about outliers. I truly believe He allows us to be born at the appointed time, to the appointed parents, to the appointed culture, etc. Enjoy and I trust this will motivate you to read the book!

They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. (This statement is about the people of Roseto Valfortore, Italy. Several of these people left Italy in 1882 and later and eventually settled in Bangor, PA. It was discovered that these people had very little if any heart disease. This was a time when most deaths was attributed to heart attacks. They also found out there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn't have anyone on welfare. No peptic ulcers. These people were dying of old age. What Wolf (the main researcher) discovered that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or excretes or genes or location. It had to be Roseto itself. As he walked around the town, he figured out why.They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. He learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. He went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.

The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't.

Biologists often talk about the "ecology" of an organism: the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and the rabbits and lumberjacks they were lucky enough to avoid? This is not a book about tall trees. It's a book about forests.

Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

“The emerging picture from such studies is ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything,” writes neurologist Daniel Levitin. “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Oh course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

He’d (Chris Langan) had to make his way alone, and no one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and even geniuses – ever makes it alone.

Instead, what started out as adversity ended up being an opportunity.

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with. For a young would-be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for a software programmer, ar being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.

Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. If it were, Chris Langan would be up there with Einstein. 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. For the hockey and soccer players born in January, it’s a better shot at making the all-star team. For the Beatles, it was Hamburg. For Bill Gates, the lucky break was being born at the right time and getting the gift of a computer terminal in junior high. Joe Flom and the founders of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, and Katz got multiple breaks. They were born at the right time with the right parents and the right ethnicity, which allowed them to practice takeover law for twenty years before the rest of the legal world caught on. Again what Korean Air did, when it finally turned its operations around, was give its pilots the opportunity to escape the constraints of their cultural legacy (has to do with the (PDI – Power Distance Index – the Koreans were afraid to speak up to the superiors).

This was a very interesting book and I would recommend it to everyone!


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