OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell
“We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit.”
Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (OCT 20, 2009)
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is a thought-provoking and entertaining analysis in which the author explores why certain people fall outside the norms of human behavior and achievement. For example, how did Bill Gates became a superstar in his field while other equally talented and intelligent men and women failed to reach their potential?
Gladwell is a marvelous storyteller who opens with an intriguing description of the Italian village of Roseto, where “virtually no one under fifty-five had died of a heart attack,” and where the death rate was remarkably lower than expected. Fifty years ago, a physician conducted a study to determine whether Rosetans followed a strict diet or exercised vigorously. There had to be some explanation for their unusual good health. Why was this town an “outlier,” “a place that lay outside everyday experience, where the normal rules did not apply?” The study’s findings demonstrate that in order to understand outliers, we have to look at a number of diverse factors.
The author contends that a whole host of elements may come into play, such as one’s date of birth, cultural milieu, religious background, and economic advantages. To some extent, everyone, no matter how gifted, is a product of his or her environment, upbringing, and opportunities. Those who achieve success often profit from a special combination of ability, determination, hard work, and luck. Otherwise, they might be destined to muddle along like the rest of us average folk.
Outliers is not just about success. It is also about spectacular failure, such as the horrendous crashes that for a time made Korean Air a pariah in aviation circles. Why, between 1988 and 1998, did this airline have a “loss rate” seventeen times higher than United Airlines? To understand this, we have to analyze how “cultural legacies” exert their own power throughout the generations.
“Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages.” Gladwell shares his personal history that, he believes, partly explains his own attainments. He discusses how having the right forbears plus a bit of serendipity has made all the difference in the trajectory of his life. It is easy to dismiss Outliers as another glib take on matters that anyone with common sense could figure out for himself, such as: It helps to be in the right place at the right time; hard work pays off; without a big break, most men and women are destined to toil in obscurity. However, Gladwell is far from simplistic. In detailed and reflective chapters filled with insightful observations, he encourages us to see the big picture that all too often is missed when we cling to our preconceived notions.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 2.079 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (November 18, 2008)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Malcolm Gladwell|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Other books like this that we’ve reviewed:|
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000)
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005)
- Outliers: The Story of Success (2008)
- What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009)
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (October 2013)