Adoption - Outliers: the Story of Success

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19 October 2012

Outliers: The Story of Success

Published in 2008, Outliers: The Story of Success is Malcolm Gladwell’s third consecutive best-selling nonfiction book, following Tipping Point (2000) and Blink (2005). While Tipping Point focuses on the individual’s ability to effect change in society, Outliers deals with the cultural and societal forces that give an individual a chance. Through a series of case studies, Gladwell insists that we have all too easily bought into the myth that successful people are self-made; instead, he says 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.”

Gladwell defines an outlier as a person out of the ordinary “who doesn't fit into our normal understanding of achievement.” According to Gladwell, great men and women are made from having success with ability, opportunities to become successful with 10,000 of practice, IQ not being the only thing needed, and that everything comes down to generation, family history, and demographics of society. Gladwell is able to support them and give great examples on how things work out with a person’s life.

“The Matthew Effect” examines opportunity as a function of timing. Canadian hockey players born closer to the magic birthday of January 1 reap advantages that compound over time. Computer programmers Bill Joy and Bill Gates, both born in the 1950s, have taken advantage of the relative-age effect to become industry giants in the 1980s. Gladwell claims that Mozart and the Beatles are not so much innate musical prodigies but grinders who thrived only after 10,000 hours of practice.

Roughly, ten years is how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice and hard work. Both Bill Joy and Bill Gates had access to unlimited time usage on a computer at essentially the beginning of the modern...
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