Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Date Read: September 2 to 30, 2019
Rating: 4 (of 5) stars
With my focus on some spooky children’s books in September, I am a bit behind with my normal posting. This book was actually my September pick for The Unread Shelf Project—a book that you can buddy read. Surprisingly, I do not have a big group of friends that read. One of my friends has been trying to read more, so we decided it would be fun to pick a book that was on both of our “want to read” lists. We ended up deciding on this one, as the one that we thought could lead to the best discussion.
While we did not actually get in as much discussion on the book as we had expected, I am glad that we decided upon this one. This is the third of Malcolm Gladwell’s books that I have read, and I really do find much of his work fascinating. However, I feel like I have to say that I find it a bit limited. There is a ton of great research referenced here, and so many great thoughts, but in the end, this really is a work of “pop psychology.” Is there something to it? Yes, probably. But I’m also not quite prepared to take all of Gladwell’s conclusions as fact. Despite this, I think it’s a great starting place for thinking and learning. I just think that the case of “Outliers” is more complicated that laid out here.
It may seem like a strange jump, but this book made me think about my brother’s speech at his friend’s wedding this summer. My brother was the Best Man at the wedding of two amazing friends of our family, and I was lucky enough to be present at the wedding as well. In his speech, my brother referenced some incredible accomplishments shared by the couple—a self renovated home, a successful business, and the wedding itself, which was very much planned and decorated “from scratch.” My brother shared an important belief he feels is connected to all this: if there is something you want to do and you don’t do it, you didn’t want it enough.
Perhaps this is a simplification as well, but I think it speaks to one of the missing pieces from Gladwell’s conclusion. Genetic potential, opportunities to practice, and being born at the right time in the right place can put you ahead of the game—but there is still a drive to that accomplishment that is unaccounted for. It may be true that 10,000 hours of practice is a “magic number” to become an expert or a master in a field; but it is also true that it takes a certain amount of personal drive and dedication to be willing to put in that time. So you did not become a master at the task you wanted? There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; but remember: you did not want it enough to dedicate the amount of time needed to do it.
Boris’s thoughts: “The only thing I want to be a master at is napping. I think I’ve got a pretty good start on my 10,000 hours or practice. 4 paws.”