Book Summaries Business

Outliers Summary (7/10)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is about our perceptions of success and genius. Gladwell’s take on the classic nature vs nurture argument, is that nurture wins. We have a way of looking at success stories and marvel at how some exceptional people were able to accomplish what they did, but really, they were merely products of their environments. Had Bill Gates not lived in the U.S, in a specific neighborhood, had he not gone to a specific school, with specific affluent friends, in a specific time-period, he would not have achieved the extraordinary levels of success that he did.

Gladwell’s argument is not that people like Bill Gates are not geniuses, but many things had to go awfully right for them to succeed, and it is by appreciating the role of chance in our lives, and understanding how strongly our talents, capacities, and opportunities are shaped by factors outside our conscious influence, that we can come to better take advantage of our own situation, and be more empathetic towards others who do not share the same advantages that we do.

It wasn’t that the Beatles were a group of individuals who were born with exceptional talent. They were a group of guys who practiced for thousands of hours across England and Germany, playing at numerous venues and to thousands of different people, until they eventually mastered their art form. Bill Gates wasn’t born a genius, had he been born in Africa or Asia, or even another American city, he would not have had the opportunity to practice for as long as he did, at a time when computers were a luxury.

This isn’t a how-to book, but rather a series of stories that show the disproportional role of chance in shaping the lives of the most celebrated geniuses in history.

If you don’t mind spending thousands of hours of deliberate practice to become a master at something, then this book offers hope. But if the idea of practicing that long is frightening because no sane human should devote so much time to just one thing, then you will not see much benefit in this book. Gladwell’s message is both a daunting and a hopeful one. Many people shrug off their potential for success because they believe that they were not born smart or talented enough. And so, they lead mediocre lives and strive for mediocre results. But Gladwell shows that mastery is a process, that it can be achieved with enough hard work and practice.

The people who have achieved disproportionate success have had the opportunity to practice disproportionately. And so, if you have free time to practice, you should have no excuse to not strive towards higher goals. And if you are someone who does not have this luxury, who cannot possibly carve out enough time to become great, then you deserve a more equal playing field, and you shouldn’t be harsh on yourself if you don’t become a master of your own craft – it is impossible without enough time.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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