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Non Fiction

Outlier – The Story of Success

Ratings: 5/5

At last, a book which makes you think!

I love Gladwell’s book. I read The Tipping Point last year. I felt helpless about what I can do to change the world or my life in The Tipping Point, but with Outlier it seems to offer an insight where I could analyse my past and take future corrective actions.

I have suspected long time ago that hardwork and ability, even intelligence is not the only recipe for success. Gladwell confirmed it.

The things I agreed with

There are interesting findings about selection of Ice Hockey team, if the cut-off date is 1 Jan, apparently those born on the earlier months of the year stands an advantage. I am born in 2 Jan, I suppose all those years at school my teachers had confused my “maturity for ability.” Then again I can’t say the same for a friend who is born in 9 Jan. 🙂 Also interesting findings on why the man-hole is round. 10,000 hours of practice is the pre-requisite to mastery. Intelligence has a threshold. IQ scores matters up to a certain point. A discussion about practical intelligence versus IQ. Don’t expect to find anything new here, Dr. Daniel Goldman explains it better. Talent mostly likely squandered in times of great economic crisis, e.g. The great depression. I believed my talent is squandered right now in this financial and economic crisis. Turning adversity to opportunity- I wholeheartedly agreed that we do not need to shy away from talking about race and ethnic, acknowledging cultural legacies and deficiencies paved the way for planned approach to shape desirable behaviours (for example: the improvement achieved by Korean Air). I agreed with the findings of culture of honour (where inhabitants take the lives of people they know out of revenge and mostly because of verbal insults) originates from people of the highlands where they are most likely to be a herdman. I won’t spoil the story. But this theory is also true for the Arab Amirs (Bedouins) and the Afghans, although the book didn’t mention my examples.

I am glad that Gladwell mentioned air crashes. My husband and I are fascinated about the National Geographic channel air crash investigations series. Mentioned any famous crashes, I would most likely know what is the cause of the crash. Interestingly Wikipedia stated : An accident survey of 1,843 aircraft accidents from 1950 through 2006 determined the causes to be as follows:

  • 53%: Pilot error
  • 21%: Mechanical failure
  • 11%: Weather
  • 8%: Other human error (air traffic controller error, improper loading of aircraft, improper maintenance, fuel contamination, language miscommunication etc.)
  • 6%: Sabotage (bombs, hijackings, shoot-downs)
  • 1%: Other cause

Gladwell divulged his family history in the final chapters of his own cultural legacies. Outliers are not outliers at all, they are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious (In my opinion, still debatable). It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky (This I totally agree).

The things I do not agree with

There are however some flaws:

  1. Besides Gladwell’s grandmother there are NO women role model. No success stories at least for one women figure?
  2. Chinese industrious is attributed to the rigorous regime of growing rice, I disagree. The Thai and Malay archipelagoes grew rice for as long as history could remember, yet the natives are not nearly as industrious as Chinese. I think it has to do with how insecure you feel about poverty and war. Insecurity breeds mostly highly populated nation, where competition is stiff. Or how high up you stay in the hemisphere. The hot and humid tropical weather, ideal for rice planting, do not really promote industrious unless you work in an air-conditioned room.
  3. Gladwell contradicts himself. On page 155, success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstanes and opportunities. And then it was said, success is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky. Unless qualified, these statements at first glance appears to be contradictory. Luck appears to be random, is it not?

I am not saying that Gladwell’s findings are the gospel truth but it is a book that open your eyes and makes you think differently. That for me is a noteworthy book. If there is one thing to take away from the book, it is this:

acknowledge your cultural legacies and take steps to overcome it.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Outlier – The Story of Success

  1. Well, I’m not so enamored of Gladwell as you, but I did love the info about the plane crashes – why do we all find disasters so fascinating? And belated Happy Birthday to you!

    Posted by rhapsodyinbooks | March 27, 2010, 2:40 am
  2. Thanks. I think it is because we hand over our lives to pilots who supposingly know what to do with it and taking charge of the flight. This sense of helplessness amplies the horror when something horrific happens. this our fascination in finding the answers I suppose. 🙂 either that or ..

    We feel so at awe with a huge flying machine that it’s fascinating to find out what went wrong with it.

    Posted by JoV | March 27, 2010, 11:52 am
  3. I read Outliers last year! You could search for my review if you’d like. I thought the same as you about the rice growing things. Though it didn’t cross my mind that there was no female role model. I haven’t read his other books but would like to. I like his ideas though don’t agree with everything he says.

    Posted by mee | March 28, 2010, 11:03 pm
  4. Even I didn’t agree with the China and rice chapter. I must say even I find air crashes very interesting. I used to religiously watch the show on Nat Geo. I saw someone wishing you happy birthday. When was your birthday?

    Posted by anaamica | March 29, 2010, 4:49 am
    • My birthday is on 2 January. Don’t bother. Most people are busy getting over their hangovers or too euphoric to think about other things, like my birthday, so it is usually forgotten.

      Posted by JoV | March 29, 2010, 3:37 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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