Genres: Research, Society, People, Sociology
Review: Read my book review here
The Book in 3 Sentences
How I Discovered The Book
My friend, Rick, was listening to the audiobook version on Youtube and told me some of the stories and it seemed quite interesting. It was also during the summer of 2020, a time where I was obsessed with trying to figure out how to be successful.
Who Should Read It?
How The Book Changed Me
My Top 3 Quotes
In the book Outliers, Gladwell argues that success and failure depend more on luck and external factors. This contrary to the myth that many people believe, which is that the crazy successful people have amazing talent and other great personal qualities. Essentially, Gladwell's point is that no one is really as self-made as they seem to be.
The external factors and advantages that Gladwell analyzes in this book include:
Why is when you were born important?
Gladwell points out that your birthday in relation to your peers or historical events can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. He backs up this claim by pointing out that kids born towards the beginning of the calendar year tend to perform better both academically and athletically. This was found to be true because those born in earlier months had more time to grow and pick up skills like reading. That said, those slightly older kids, who are perceived to be slightly smarter than their peers, get funnelled into gifted programs and end up receiving more attention. What was once a really slight advantage ends up snowballing until the academic ability of those slightly older kids becomes significantly higher than their peers by the time they get older.
When looking at your birthday in relation to historical events, Gladwell points out that the world's best computer programers were born in the mid-1950's. Thus, by 1975, people like Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs were able to take full advantage of the personal computer. If any of those individuals were slightly older, they would most likely be in established careers and wouldn't care about new technology. Also, if they were slightly younger someone else might have beaten them to it.
Why does it matter how much money your parents have?
Essentially, wealthy parents can afford the time and money necessary for their children to be in special programs and can hire additional tutors and coaches. Poorer families most likely wouldn't be able to provide the structure and guidance that comes from getting their child a private tutor.
Wealthy parents also tend to practice something known as concerted cultivation. This is the intentional fostering of a child's unique set of skills and their healthy sense of entitlement. The parenting style of concerted cultivation also teaches children practical intelligence. For instance, Gladwell found that middle-class kids advocate for themselves more than kids from lower socio-economic status families.
What's the importance of cultural traits?
People tend to inherit cultural traits, and these traits can influence success or failure. If we can realize the importance of cultural traits and be open to speaking about their weaknesses, we can make positive changes that increase chances of success.
Gladwell points out that the world's safest airlines comes from countries that have cultures that do not value strict social hierarchies. He further elaborates on this point by telling readers that plane crashes are more common in airlines from countries that do value strict societal hierarchies. This was later found to be true because the cultural norm of societal hierarchies creates a communication barrier that prevents co-pilots from speaking up and challenging the authority of the main pilot.
What does Gladwell mean by hidden opportunities?
Gladwell tries to tell readers that what may appear as a disadvantage can sometimes become an opportunity. For instance, jewish lawyers used to get discriminated against a lot and were forced to practice a type of law known as litigation. At the time, elite law firms wouldn't touch litigation cases as they were seen as taboo. That said, when litigation became socially acceptable in the 1970s, the discriminated jewish lawyers were already the best in the business.
What is Gladwell's take on Nature vs Nurture? Does he not believe in innate talent and abilities?
Gladwell does believe that innate talent and giftedness contribute to a person's success. That said, he believes innate talent only helps up until a certain point and afterwards it's the external factors that impact and determine your ability for success.
For instance, after a threshold IQ of 130, other factors become more significant such as divergent thinking because you are already smart enough. Gladwell also believes that talent can only take you so far. You need the opportunity to practice at least 10'000 hours to gain expertise. Gladwell argues that this amount of time is only available to you if you come from a family, community or culture that gives that opportunity from an early age.
What's the point of the information in this book?
Gladwell wants readers to understand that it could be possible to create a world where more people can be successful. If we can understand the external factors that can influence success, then it might be possible to create a world where people are given more opportunities to succeed. Some things we can do include:
I'm Farshad, and I'm a curious PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto. At the moment, I spend most of my time engineering DNA nanotechnologies 🧬, and researching how I can improve personalized medicine approaches. I also spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and how I can be the best version of myself. This website hosts a collection of my over caffeinated thoughts regarding my life and the world, as well as my notes on the various books I’ve read.