Gladwell teaches tips for success
Issue date: 5/8/09 Section: Arts & Entertainment
"Outliers" is divided into two distinct parts: opportunity and legacy. In a similar vein as his two previous books, "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," Gladwell backs his theories with both statistical and anecdotal evidence. His explanations of ideas are straightforward and organized making the book effortless for the reader to follow.
The first angle Gladwell examines in his search to explain success is that of opportunities, and how a series of them can shape the direction of an individual's life.
He argues that an outlier's success is driven by a sequence of unique opportunities that prepared them for their future. In combination with this premise, he draws upon multiple studies that reach a parallel conclusion; 10,000 hours is the magic number for reaching an expert skill level.
Take for example the personal history of Bill Gates, arguably one of the richest and most success men in the world. Gates came of age just as computers were becoming more wide spread. Gladwell outlines nine specific opportunities that Gates received, including the chance to program while in high school, to take advantage of free programming at a nearby university and to spend a term away writing code. The culmination of these opportunities added up to Gate's 10,000 hours by college creating proficiency that would allow for the formation of Microsoft.
The research is so specific that in the case of Jewish lawyers of a certain age in New York City, Gladwell can accurately describe much of their personal history without knowing more than a name, age and firm.
In addition to these ideas, Gladwell examines how a lack of opportunity can result in some of the world's most intelligent individuals never reaching their scholarly potential. These examples demonstrate the importance of parents' sending their children to good schools, summer camps and extracurricular activities.