By Susan O'Keefe
"Small studies yet large generalizations" quipped one reader. "I found it interesting but maybe not completely factual" voiced another. "His methodology allowed for a tremendous amount of wiggle room."
This compilation of comments came on a recent Tuesday evening when our usual brood of gals met to discuss the club's latest pick. Although the immensely popular book of data points and unconventional research presents interesting findings, our group had its fair share of skeptics. "Outliers" is authored by Malcolm Gladwell. It's his third book, the other two also relating to often overlooked theories or quirky inquiries.
Among his findings, Gladwell suggests Canadian hockey players born in the first quarter of the year benefit immensely when it comes to success on the ice. Consider airline crashes that show a strong relationship to ethnic customs and authoritative hierarchies. Contemplate the wild popularity of The Beatles and ponder that perhaps it was due in part to a lengthy stage gig in Hamburg! Sound a bit out of the box? Keep reading!
For the genius without opportunity, circumstance, or inheritance, a mind is wasted. For the athlete with uncanny abilities, if there is no training, then there is no trophy. No matter the skill, there must be recognition and, furthermore, there must be focused intensity from experts interested in helping an individual hone a skill. Yet, even with honing, Gladwell attests, there must be a certain element that is not in our DNA. It cannot be duplicated or packaged. It is simply community.
Gladwell dedicates an entire chapter comparing and contrasting two highly intelligent individuals who grew up with the intellectual capabilities to reform modern medicine or technology, whichever they chose! While one of them was raised in a wealthy Manhattan neighborhood, his brainy counterpart was scrapping for food on the other side of the tracks. As one was immersing himself in the study of rocks, his parents were responding with a concerted cultivation of the boy's interests. During this time, the equally intelligent other boy was seeking opportunity and open doors, yet became disillusioned with his dreams of world reform as time after time, doors slammed shut or he was never given the option to see what the world held for him. Upon deeper observation, Gladwell's researchers found there is an entire group to which this boy belongs. They're called the group of "squandered talent" and are basically always a day late and a dollar short.
The book interviews and hears from one of those boys after he grew up to be a man. Although not bitter that his life has not achieved Bill Gates-esque status, he is matter-of-fact regarding his position. He describes his frustration with dead ends all the while knowing that everybody gets help from somebody. "â€¦ No one, not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses ever make it alone."
Gladwell's spin on early twentieth century New York City is a considerable conversation starter. Immigrants exited the boat searching for the American dream. Those with skills from their old country that could be transferred to this New World often met success at a fairly rapid pace. Dress makers are one of Gladwell's targets of study in chapter five. He tracks several generations and notes how doors are opened painlessly because of ethnic groups elevating their own. Of course the opposite can be said as immigrants are faced with blatant discrimination. The bottom line? If your skill is in demand and you are proficiently marketing your product, expect great success. Sounds reasonable, but Gladwell pinpoints that the right skill must be sharpened at the right time by the right person in order for a domino effect to ensue. Gladwell takes a narrow look at historical events then broadens his scope to see how the community, country, and even world have absorbed the aftermath.
"Outliers" has been dubbed clever and entertaining. It is not solely a book of sheer fact but rather a collection of oddities that separate or synchronize certain groups.
Planning for a baby? You may want to consult academic or athletic calendar cut off dates! Eager for success as an artist, vocalist, or chef? Start logging hours of practice time as Gladwell's magical number is 10,000 hours of sweat equity. One clubber called it a rare "how-to" book as in "how to make the most of human potential."