Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Notes: "Outliers", by Malcom Gladwell

All I really knew about this book was the "10,000 hours of practice" idea. It's a great observation, and I figured that since I'd read about it, and understood it, I didn't need to bother to read the book.

But when talking to my sister about how we both look at our separate careers, she said, "It's all about that stuff I learned in Outliers." She told me a lot of her success was due to practicing principles she'd learned about in this book. And when I told her my impression of the book that I hadn't read - that it was all about the 10,00 hours of practice thing - she said, "You should really read it. There's a lot more to it than that."

So I did. I did read Outliers.

More precisely, I gobbled up Outliers. It went as fast as a good suspense novel, it was so fascinating.

It talks about how our ideas about success are wrong.

Well, no. They're partly right. We think success is all about hard work, and that's true. As far as it goes.

The problem is, it doesn't go far enough.  Success does come to hard workers. If the opportunity comes to you at the time when you are poised to jump on it - poised to take that wave at the curl - then you'll have success. Having those "10,000 hours" under your belt will ensure you're ready to jump when the opportunity comes.

But the opportunity has to come.

The most fascinating part of Outliers is how the opportunity comes. And how we're set up for the opportunities.

My absolute favorite part of the book were the bits about our cultural programming. I don't want to recount it all here, because I'm afraid I won't do justice to it, but Gladwell does a great job of showing how our cultures both limit us and make us excel. I loved reading all his stories about different countries and how their traditions prepare people for different kinds of opportunities.

And I guess, in the end, that's what I really loved about this book: I loved the stories. This book is non-fiction, but the truth is, it was full of ripping good yarns. It gave me a lot to think about, sure, but it also just pulled me along because of the winsome nature of its narration. I truly enjoyed it.

Highly recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Amber said...

I had made a similar assumption! Thanks for your review, I just put myself on the wait list for the book at the library.

Jessica Snell said...

Oh, cool! I hope you enjoy it, Amber. I found it fascinating. :)

Amber said...

I found it fascinating too! I loved the stories, and I loved sharing them around the dinner table too. :-) I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, are my take aways from the book though - is there something more than the great stories?

I'm thinking it is something along the lines of:
Don't expect success in anything to happen quickly, get in the hours and hours of practice and then be willing to move on various opportunities.
Be persistent, very persistent, but remember to cultivate people skills too.
Be willing to consider what it might be about your personality or your habits that might make people perceive you or your passions in a way that makes them draw away from you, rather than towards you.

I'm curious what your sister saw in it that she felt made such a difference in her career.

Jessica Snell said...

Hi Amber! I love reading about what you took from it. :)

I asked my sister your question, and she said that reading the book made her willing to be "pushy" about her career, and to approach the higher-ups with her ideas. She said it's made all the difference in the world.

Amber said...

Ah, very interesting! Thanks for asking her.

Another thing the book made me even more serious about is how I keep the kids going on math and reading over the summer. I do reading practice with 2 of my kids 3x per week and I have them doing XtraMath 3x/wk too. And of course there's read alouds and silent reading and audiobooks... but it made me feel less like a overzealous mom and more like a mom who is doing the right thing. :-)