Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review: Outliers


Outliers concerns people who fall outside the normal bell curve of achievement and performance.

Author Malcolm Gladwell challenges our American notion that achievement is largely a factor of ambition and intelligence. While he makes much of the importance of hard work, he shows that it’s wrong-headed to look at individuals and ascribe their success to their industry and determination alone. He emphasizes, through several interesting anecdotes taken from various fields (e.g., hockey, computer science, and law), that success is largely dependent upon time, place and ancestry.

There’s nothing new in the idea that many successful people had been born with a "step-up." But the book provides interesting examples of how even seeming disadvantages (i.e., being Jewish in the early 20th Century) can work in a person’s favor.

Thankfully, the book is much more of a social study than a personal-improvement manual. There are take-aways for the individual, though. Looking frankly at your family history, what trends should you change or avoid? What situational or psychological “advantages” have you been born with?

One might ask, where in time and space has God put me? What clue might this be for my life’s focus? Also, what right do I have, really, to look down on anyone for what he or she has or hasn’t done? Indeed, as alluded to in the book, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:35-48)

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