It took me awhile to finally decide to write this post as it runs against the tide of most readers’ opinions. And many feel strongly as I discovered at dinner last night with friends, but here goes. Outliers purports to reveal the real reason some people — like Bill Joy, the Beatles and Bill Gates— are successful. Yet what Malcolm Gladwell finds is, as Michiko Kakutani notes, “little more than common sense” – except when he draws conclusions about what’s most important for success.
vignettes in it, yet see if Gladwell’s conclusions surprise you:
1. Talent alone is not enough to ensure success.
2. Opportunity, hard work, timing and luck are also essential.
3. Poor children are less likely to succeed than those raised in rich or middle-class families.
4. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become successful.
The first three seem blindingly obvious yet I disagree about what’s most important. And he over-generalizes. While it’s also obvious that mastery improves one’s chance for success, his conclusion that there’s a magic amount of practice time cannot be substantiated by the studies, interviews (Bill Joy, for example) and stories he offers.
As well, luck and timing may trump his “10,000 rule,” Hundreds of garage bands that practiced as much and at the time as The Beatles, for example, did not become famously successful.
As Isaac Chotiner concludes, Gladwell “dislikes attributing individual accomplishment to the accomplishing individuals. He has set out to prove that people with social advantages do better than people without social advantages, and so the really wise thing for society to do is to arrange for more advantages for more people.” In fact Gladwell never really defines success.
They are key factors in work, love, fame, wealth and, well, all that we may enjoy in life – or not.
So too, are attractiveness, charisma, willpower, fortitude, and the ability to lead, evoke trust and attract support. But other authors have pointed that out, some with a less fascinating thread of stories than Gladwell’s book to support these universal truths. And that may be the core talent that’s made him successful.
Since his diligent research and writing has probably taken at least 10,000 hours his conclusion is self-evident – for him. As any author will admit, that’s an extraordinary talent to hone however one “achieves” success at it. And Gladwell always stirs thinking and conversation - a great thing.
• on those who steadfastly hone their singular talent …
• often in the company of compatible colleagues…
• with whom they achieve greater success than they could alone …
• and can savor their shared success together.