In understanding successful people, we have come to focus far too much on their intelligence and ambition and personality traits. Instead, Malcolm Gladwell argues in Outliers, we should look at the world that surrounds the successful – their culture, their family, their generation and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing, Along the way, Gladwell reveals what the Beatles and Bill Gates have in common, the reason you’ve never heard of the smartest man in the world, why almost no star hockey players are born in the fall, and why, when it comes to plane crashes, where the pilots are born matters as much as how well they are trained. The lives of outliers – people whose achievements fall outside normal experiences – follow a peculiar and unexpected logic, and in uncovering that logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.
Up until recently our group has not read a lot of non-fiction, but this year we decided to make a concerted effort to do so. The question is … what should we read? Our interests are wide and varied so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something. The problem is, as readers we have already read most of the non-fiction that appeals to us.
Here is where an author like Malcolm Gladwell comes in. His books tend to be written as a social commentary (backed with studies and statistics) on a combination of universally significant, and yet at times seemingly banal topics. In the Outliers he talks us through the circumstances which result in everything from star hockey players and award winning airlines, to software magnets and multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. His statistics can bring on a slight case of the ‘glazed eye’ syndrome, but his research is sound and generally he argues his case in a very entertaining and informative way.
On the whole we found the read to be serious food for thought with an amazing amount of information fired out at a fast pace. Certainly fast enough to keep those pages turning!
Everyone had their favourite chapter … some liked the idea of the magic 10,000 hours of practice, others the close look at cultural differences, and then Gladwell’s last chapter outlining his own family background we all found extremely interesting, adding a real human touch to an author so consumed with facts and figures.
Whichever, they all culminated in a great discussion on a huge range of topics. A perfect book for a group interested in a constantly changing and puzzling world. Highly recommended!