Book Review #11: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


Book Review #11: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

May 23, 2012
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Hello Readers! After a brief book review hiatus, I’m back with a beauty: Outliers
by Malcolm Gladwell! How is it I discovered this book? Well  I’m  not a person that reads things based on book club recommendations (keep that 50 Shades of Garbage to yourself!). But the book Outliers came to my attention through its repeated reference in my circle of colleagues. I first heard of it last year during an industry conference; I happened to mention to somebody that I was always young for my class when attending school and she answered back with a litany of facts as to how my parents had given me a considerable disadvantage by starting me early. She then told me of the book Outliers and how the whole premise of the book is that an “outlier” or person of great success comes to be because of a series of advantages they were given— not by “being born a genius” or some other way that we might consider to be true without investigation. One of said advantages that the book covers is the relation between relative age in a group of children and how the most advanced children are given the greatest opportunities.

What? How could this be? My parents had perpetrated the story for years that putting me into school early would give me an advantage– not the opposite. Their ruse went like this: clearly I had an advantage when I could multiply (or do some other random skill) at a certain age since all my classmates couldn’t do it until they were a year older. And I would also have an extra year to be eligible to work before retirement. Surely these were advantages….. Or were they?


Thinking back to kindergarten I was definitely behind the other children. Classmates always seemed to get the point of group activities and games before I did; I usually had to be prodded by the teacher to participate— or sometimes I was reprimanded for doing my own thing entirely. I had always written this off- I’ve always been a “free spirit” of sorts and never liked figures of authority so I figured that was why I behaved badly as a 4-year-old first year student. But now looking back, perhaps my dislike of authority grew out of my age disadvantage. I was a full year younger than most kids in my class— something that may not seem like much, but then a year was a quarter of my life.

Anyways, back to Outliers. This book takes a few traditional stories of success or chance— and then turns them on their head and makes the reader explore why the people are really successful. It looks at people like Bill Gates and NHL hockey players; Chinese math students and airplane pilots. Instead of telling traditional rags-to-riches stories or something of the sort, this book explores the considerable opportunities these people were given. The story of Bill Gate’s success  is told ironically in the context of his pre-Microsoft youth; oddly enough this is where he obtained most of his advantages that set him apart years down the road. Realizing that success is a series of seized opportunities and advantages instead of some hidden secret that most don’t have the key to is the point this book strives to make.

So what about the kids whose parents put them into school early and started them off on the path as– gasp– disadvantaged? Well, this book doesn’t do much for telling you how to overcome your own plight….. But it does give you many ways of looking at opportunities. Perhaps I may have been disadvantaged for being younger than the kids in my class— but perhaps that same disadvantage is responsible for me becoming the quirky authority-challenger that I am today. And perhaps that will lead to another opportunity someday. Perhaps 🙂

I really enjoyed the book Outliers and highly recommend it to anyone that likes success stories and different world views. Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t necessarily see things like most people do– but when he dives into the facts and uncovers the real stories behind the traditional success lore it is very entertaining. Will Outliers help me become more successful? Maybe. But if not, it’s still worth reading just for the refreshing point of view. Notso gives it two paws up!

Disclaimer: This review contains affiliate links though I am not payed by anybody to write about this book. Just in case you needed to know 😉

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