This book shows that the stories about self made rugged individualists who are so widely admired are not stories of singularly talented people who took advantage of opportunities. But rather they are stories of talented people who took advantage of singular opportunities. Furthermore, the ability and disposition to work hard is not so much a personal trait as it is a cultural legacy.
The author tells numerous true stories of what appears to be shining examples of disadvantaged people who ended up being outstanding success stories. But then the author goes back through the same story and takes a look at where that person came from and shows that they benefited from a combination of a cultural background and set of unique opportunities and timing that allowed them to succeed.
The point of the book is not to explain away success stories. But rather it is to learn from these stories, and use this information to help everyone be more productive and successful. The author shows several instances where proactive steps were able to ameliorate the effect of negative cultural legacies.
I found this book to be one of the most interesting non-fiction books that I've ever listened to. Some critics of this book have pointed out that the author, Malcolm Gladwell, didn't adhere to strict protocols in his interpretation of data. My response is that this book is for popular consumption, not the academic community. I'm confident that plenty of proper research and analysis will be performed prior to the implementation of major improvements to schools based on Gladwell's recommendations.
The following is a copy of the review of this book review taken from the Jaunary 6, 2011 PageADay
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THAT SWEET SMELL
Malcolm Gladwell makes sense of yet another aspect of our world in this pleasantly readable account of success and the qualities that lead to it. The question he poses is, Why do the Bill Gateses and Mozarts of the world succeed so brilliantly, while others of the same intelligence and talent end up leading lives of quiet desperation? Using his method of combining the latest academic studies with the most relevant and irresistible stories, Gladwell makes his case that the “outliers” beneft from advantages and opportunities that pass others up. A stimulating read, to say the least.
OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS, by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, 2008)