Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outliers

I still think Malcolm Gladwell is a genius, even though I didn't like this book as much as I have his others.

The whole premise of the book is that smarts and talent alone aren't enough to guarantee success - a measure of good luck and being born at the right time in the right place comes into it.

Gladwell profiles a number of highly successful people and looks at what how they got where they are. For most, including Bill Gates, it was something like having access to a computer lab at a time when such a thing was a luxury. If Bill Gates hadn't gone to a private school that installed a computer lab and hadn't been able to work at the lab at the University of Washington, Microsoft might never have come into being.

To prove his point, Gladwell also profiles a man who has one of the highest IQ scores ever recorded, and shows how the hasn't "succeeded" in life because he didn't have the same types of opportunities that others have had.

I found the book strangely depressing, and I can't quite put my finger on why.

2 comments:

Charley said...

I liked The Tipping Point. How does Gladwell define success? Financial success?

hokgardner said...

No, it's more having the ability to reach your full potential. THe one man he profiles who is brilliant but didn't have access to the same opportunities as say Bill Gates did, worked random jobs his whole life, frustrated that the system was keeping him down. He's tried to publish books but because he never had an entree into the academic world, he can't get anyone to read his manuscripts. It seems like so much talent wasted.

The most interesting part of me was Gladwell's biography of his own family. He has definitely benefitted from certain "lucky" circumstances in his grandparents' and parents' lives that helped him get where he is today.