Review of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Rating ** 1/2
Malcolm Gladwell has done a remarkable job of turning simple ideas into best sellers. His last book, Blink, could be summed up as follows: first impressions are important. That's it. It was a best seller. His current best seller can be summed up as: people who succeed in life practice a lot. His next book will probably be called Rich, and it will be summed up as: people who save a lot tend to have more money. The subtext of the book Rich will be that authors with high powered literary agents can turn magazine articles into best sellers.
This book is short in pages and even shorter in insight. There's nothing new or important in this book. There is no secret to success. Success is a combination of knowledge, effort, and luck. Luck, as in opportunity, is every bit as important as knowledge and effort.
You know the author is struggling to come up with ideas when he decides to write about his literary agent, his literary agent's parents, and the author's parents. What he has to say about them, and any of the other individuals he profiles in the book, can also be said about anyone who has achieved a level of success. No one becomes successful without putting in the effort to learn their craft and without the aid of outside influences. A person gets a job thanks to the efforts of a friend who recommends him for the job. A musician lands a record deal after playing a round of golf with a music producer. Bill gates becomes a megamillionaire thanks to some free computer time.
The one bit of insight the author does offer is the importance of timing. If Bill Gates had been born a few years before or after his actual birth date, he would not have been in the same position to achieve the level of success he has achieved. Had he been born earlier, before the personal computer arrived on the scene, chances are that he would have taken a different path and would have had other obligations that would not have permitted him to spend countless hours programming a computer. Had he been born later, someone else would have come up with the software code for the first operating system.
None of us have control over when we are born. I had the misfortune of being born in January. I say misfortune because when it came time for me to start school I was put into classes with students who were a full year older than me. I was at an age where I could have waited a year or start school at the younger age. My parents decided to start me at the younger age. It was a disadvantage for me throughout my school years because I was always one year younger than everyone else. I didn't catch up socially or academically until college and even then I was younger than my classmates.
While you can't control your birth date, you can control your destiny by putting in the effort, keeping an eye out for opportunities, and putting yourself in a position to capitalize on luck when it presents itself. Now if someone wants to give me a six figure book deal for an expanded version of the above advice, please contact me.