Friday, June 28, 2013

Outliers: a book review


This article is part of my final requirement for my subject in the MBA "Human Behavior in Organization"

Written by Malcolm Gladwell (author of Tipping Point and Blink), Outliers is a motivational book that narrates how exceptional people reaped extraordinary success despite unconventional circumstances. It also tells us how the influence of the environment, upbringing and generation contribute massively to the fate of an individual.

Outliers, according to the author, refer to the unusual or extraordinary circumstances of the lives of the people “where normal rules did not applyit refers to men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary”, people who have been given and lucky enough to be surrounded by opportunities, people who make good use of their passion, their skill and talent.

The book introduced the readers to the extraordinary circumstances that propelled Silicon Valley titans and Bill Gates to fame and wealth. Silicon Valley titans include the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Dave Hewlitt and Will Packard, founders of HP. They lived in a California village known as Silicon Valley, where world billionaires had traditionally built their enormous wealth. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and Lawrence Ellison (currently, the 6th richest man in the world), founder of Oracle, also operated their respective business empire around Silicon Valley.

The opportunities given to them were vast, they did not rise to greatness because of their intellect alone, but they did it through spending time honing their skills, experience and possessing a unique enthusiasm towards their passion. Success and achievement therefore have something to do with the environment we currently lived and understanding the trend and needs of the generation we belong. For instance, the fate of computer geniuses like Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Steve Jobs, and Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft), and their talents were intensified with the kind of environment they lived. They were born in the 1950s and when they were approaching their adulthood life, computer revolution was also unfolding, thus, having enormous opportunity to explore the skill and talent they already have.

In a world where society plays a major part in every person’s survival, success sometimes depends on what is necessary in the environment, society therefore influences the way we perceive life and the way we live and strive. For instance the tech wizards: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckeberg, both college drop-out but founded companies that would later left an astonishing mark in people’s consciousness due to its world-changing innovations, all because these world billionaires had seized the opportunities their generation had given (Jobs and Gates for computer revolution and Zuckerberg for Social Networking revolution).

 Gladwell pointed out the influence that we must remember through the 10,000 house-rule, based on a study conducted by Anders Ericsson, here, the author emphasized “vastness and magnitude do not simply happen, it requires huge time and opportunity to achieve what we are looking”.

The 10,000 house-rule refers to the time, period and circumstances that individual must endure in order to gain enough experience into the field they would be joining. Success sometimes depends not only on our roots, culture and influences but on how time would help us improve and develop our skills and talents, thus, more than 10,000 hours of spending in what we love doing will help a lot.

The book also emphasized that even if we’ve got all the talent and intellect in this world, without having given an opportunity to explore what we already have or without the support of the society we are living, we will ended up nothing, take for example the case of Chris Langan, who might be the smartest person in the world today and believed to have an IQ more than that of Albert Einstein, but life and circumstances deprived him with the kind of opportunities that would bring him to where he should be, so he ended up nothing.

Gladwell also illustrates how IQ and success are interrelated, but it doesn’t mean that people who have higher IQ are smarter than those who have an average IQ level. This concept also leads to the belief that not all college graduates are smarter than those who did not earn a diploma, remember that most of the world billionaires and computer geniuses like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg did not even finish college.

The true-to-life stories presented in Outliers book are immensely wonderful. It provides thought-provoking lessons and realizations that there’s an interconnection between culture, environment, success, joy and achievement in our fate. It’s not merely destiny or bad luck that undermines our chances to be successful or live in comfort, sometimes it is the product of effort and opportunity. There is important connections of the decade and generation we were born, the trend of that generation, the social position of our family and our roots, the relationships between intellect and perseverance, success and triumph, opportunities and chances and our determination and enthusiasm to pursue a certain goal. It is very difficult indeed to build a certain goal away from what the present world is asking.

People’s mindset has something to do with success too, if we are too focus on failures and weaknesses, if we refused to move on with our lives after misfortunes, chances are, fate would never cooperate to the kind of life we always wanted. We should constantly look around for opportunities and explore different possibilities of maximizing its advantages and believe in what we are doing. It is also a great advantage discovering what the present world needs so that we can fit our life’s goal in it.

            In order for us to become “Outliers”, we should do extraordinary things beyond imagination or beyond expectations, we should think differently because the world is changing, we should be crazy enough to think that we can change the world, we should try to be visionaries. Life itself is no magic. There are times that we are very passionate in doing things we thought would bring us to greatness but circumstances refused to cooperate, having  a burning passion to try again and avoid those things that won’t work would surely bring us to where we should be no matter how long it takes. Sometimes, it depends on ourselves how we view life and how we would spend every hour working on that dream.




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