Bought this book in India for $2 , less than the shipping cost of an item from Amazon!. Price difference of books sometimes amazes me. If one really wants to read a set a books, one can manage the stuff with a very lean budget in India.
This is a book about outliers. In some sense, everybody wants to be an outlier. Ask any person and he/she might say ” I want to be different” . He/She wants to be different. However there are only few people in this world who manage to be very very different from the rest of us, as far as the eventual world-measured-success is concerned. This book emphasizes one single point through out. Outstanding achievement/Success is made by certain individuals because of the culture they belong to. There could be many variables that effect the success of an individual. Malcolm Gladwell takes one such variable, culture, of the individual and tries to weave experimental and anecdotal evidence to argue that , culture, probably could be one of the most significant variables that determines success of an individual.
The book starts off with an interesting finding at a place , some 100 miles away from Bancor, Pennsylvania. A surprisingly healthy community who all come from a place in Italy and are unusually healthy. This example brings out the “Outlier” effect. Is health related to the usual known causes or Does culture have a big role to play in it ?
Gladwell talks about the Canadian Hockey league and shows that date of birth , and specifically date and month of birth have a tremendous effect on the success of the person. The eligibility date of the Canadian Hockey league somehow seem to have a great effect on the type of successful players which the system churns out. Someone born near the cut off date has a far more likelihood to be grouped with a set of younger students and eventually displays far more superior skills in the group and thus gets to the top , thanks to the asymmetric age distribution in the group.
10,000 hours is the effort required to master anything , as per gladwell’s research. Be it Bill Joy, Bill Gates, Beatles, Paul Allen, every one of the rock stars/ chess players/ entrepreneurs seems to have put 10,000 hours of passionate efforts to become excellent in their respective work. If you put in 12 hrs of effort, 7 days a week , which is 84 hours a week. In a year it translates to approx 4200 hours. If you can spend at least 3 years this schedule of 12hr days, then there is no doubt that you can become proficient, as per Gladwell.
Author runs a story about Joe Flom , a successful lawyer and glosses over the usual reasons that are given for the success of an individual. Instead he focuses on specific events that arise in Joe Flom’s life , Being Jewish, Demographic luck, 3 elements of flow (autonomy+complexity+effort & reward ) coming together in the type of law practiced. These factors , gladwell, cogently argues are the main reasons behind Joe Flom’s success.
Personally, I found the story on Rice paddies to be the most important part of the book. Gladwell explains the connection between the effort spent on rice fields and the way the same traits are carried in to the math abilities of Asians. Truly the most interesting narrative that I have read in the recent times
There is also an account of KIPP school in Bronx which illustrates the importance of “more schooling” rather “less schooling” being the reason behind the turn around of the school. Author presents the data which says that the only reason which the elite school kids perform better other kids is the way they spend their spare time. Well, the spare time is what decides the expertise of a person.
The book ends with the story about author’s mother where a set of fortuitous events lead his mom from Jamaica to US .
The book is a great one-time read of a few stories which go on to hammer the point that , culture, where you come from has a significant bearing on your success. If you are a gladwell fan , you might not want to miss this book.