Book Review: Outliers

I finished reading Outliers yesterday. I borrowed the book from the library and it was over 2 weeks overdue by the time I returned it which resulted in a whopping 3 dollar fee! ;)

I think Gladwell only has 3 books out. If this is true, I’ve read all of them now. Blink, Tipping Point, and Now Outliers. Blink and Tipping Point didn’t really captivate me. Contrastingly, Outliers really did interest me. Gladwell outlines what makes really successful people successful. He investigates the success of geniuses, professional athletes, Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Asians and their proclivity for mathematics, Jewish New York lawyers and takeover law. What he finds is that birth dates, birth years, social-economic climates, arbitrary lucky breaks, and cultural legacies all play crucial roles in a person’s exceptional rise to success.

For instance, pro-athlete hockey players in Canada, he’s noted usually were born in the first 3 months of the year. The cut off date for youth hockey leagues is January 1, suggesting that the kids who just miss the cutoff date, get a few extra months to develop and mature in their skills which also draws extra coaching.

Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a bit bigger, and that edge is turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still – and on and on until the hockey player is a genuine outlier. But he didn’t start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better.” – pg 30

I don’t want to give the rest of the book away. Suffice it to say it’s pretty interesting and surprising. I leave you with my favorite passage that pretty much sums it up and inspires.

“We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today? To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success- the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all. If Canada had a second hockey league for those children born in the last half of the year, it would today have twice as many adults hockey league for those children born in the last half of the year, it would today have twice as many adult hockey stars. Now multiply that sudden flowering of talent by every field and profession. The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.” – pg 268

Please consider using my Amazon link if you plan on purchasing these books from Amazon. :).