Like most people, I had a perception that this book is about the power of effort and that putting in 10,000 hours of practice would make one a legend in a particular field. It’s unfortunate that in many book reviews and synopsis, people have reduced this book to “10,000 hours” when Malcolm Gladwell clearly states that success is often a result of being born at the “right time”, getting the “right opportunities” and of course, effort. It’s really sad that many people will stay away from this book because of this perception and also because it’s a ‘bestseller’. If you are one of those people then I urge you to look beyond these things because you will miss out on some serious insights from this riveting book.
What makes Malcolm Gladwell different from other ‘best-selling’ authors is the depth of his research and the jaw-dropping observations made from mundane and dull data. When we talk about success, we either completely dismiss it as ‘luck’ or attribute it to ‘hard work’ and say that those who didn’t succeed didn’t work hard enough. In a way, this makes things easier because we don’t have to understand the nuances. But Gladwell says that success is much more complex. He explains that Bill Gates succeeded because he had an *opportunity* to practice programming for more than 10,000 hours and also because he was born in 1955! Because he was born in 1955, he had just the right amount of time to practice before the personal computer revolution. In another example of a plane crash, Gladwell observes that the first officer knew that they were in danger but he didn’t communicate this urgency with assertiveness to the captain and the air controller because the culture he comes from teaches men and women to ‘obey’ their elders and be always polite to them. A person’s ethnicity is the last thing that we think about while analyzing a plane crash!
Just like ‘Blink’, ‘Outliers’ has nothing new to offer in terms of the conclusion. Many thinkers have emphasized on the role of luck but what makes Gladwell different is “how” he gets to the conclusion. Instead of boring the readers with research, he creates a symphony of facts, insights, and stories. Gladwell is truly a master of selling ideas.