I read this last year but came across my post on it elsewhere and thought I’d share!
Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, has written another lively book, Outliers, that sheds new perspectives on an important topic. This one focuses on the factors that lead to success for people, and debunks some common assumptions. He emphasizes the way environment & hard work combine for good results.
Regarding hard work, Gladwell gives us the “10,000 hour rule” in which he suggests that to achieve mastery in virtually any field, one needs at least 10,000 hours of practice. He cites as one example the young Bill Gates slipping out in the middle of the night as a teen to program on a nearby mainframe; and the Beatles getting their 10,000 hours through long 8 hour gigs they did in their early days at a club in Germany.
In a chapter “The Trouble with Geniuses Part 2” Gladwell talks about how a stark difference in parenting styles between upper middle class families vs. lower SES families contributes to very different outcomes. He contrasts the story of a guy with an IQ higher than Einstein’s that winds up struggling because of tough family background (mother forgets to fill out financial aid form so he can’t go to college) with parents who had both skills and an inclination to supported their talented children.
But there’s also an important element of chance that underlies the story of success. He points out that Gates (and other early tech entrepreneurs) happened to come of age at a time when there was great opportunity in there field, and circumstances provided them opportunities to develop the skills needed to capitalize on the opportunity. And even simple things such as the month one is born can contribute to success (if you want to make the NHL better hope you’re born in January!).
I wouldn’t quite put this on par with Tipping Point, which was a highly influential work, but this is a very entertaining and interesting read.