A review of Outliers: The Story of Success

outlier: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample -Mirriam-Webster

Outliers: The Story of Success

We observe human outliers on a daily basis whether we are watching the exceptional athletes competing in the NBA or Stanley Cup Finals, reading about the latest billion dollar company, admiring a sketch by M.C. Escher, or listening to the works of Mozart or Bach.

However, one interesting aspect of the whole phenomenon of outliers is that for every breakout success there are droves of other people who are smarter, stronger, and more talented than their successful peers. Why is that? Shouldn’t the kids growing up with the highest IQ and most raw talent end up being the most successful?

Now, if I asked you list what traits virtually all of the most successful people in this world share, you would probably give me two answers: raw talent and hard work. And, according to Outliers you’d be 2/3 correct. Outliers shows us that there is an equally important and criminally overlooked third piece in the story of a person’s success: opportunity.

It’s not enough if we are genius smart, great at playing guitar, or ten feet tall if we are not given an opportunity to succeed. Why was Bill Gates so successful? Well, he’s obviously a genius, and he is definitely a hard worker. But, what most people don’t know is that Gates was given a huge advantage in his youth; early access to a computer. Bill Gates’ parents happened to put him in one of the only high schools (if not only) in the country that had access to a mainframe terminal. As a result Bill got a mammoth head start on programming and hit his 10,000 hours very early.

These facts, brought to light, have some very serious implications. Especially centered around the opportunity our children get while growing up. For instance, if you start assessing the potential of a child too early on, and you have children in your group that could be up to 12 months older than others, the older kids will immediately look better than their younger counterparts almost every time. This is why, for instance, most Canadian born hockey players are born in the first few months of the year. It all stems back to the cut-off date for pee-wee hockey. If your child is 10 years 0 months old and joins a team full of kids 10 years and 11 months old, you had better believe that he is going to get overlooked right out of the gate. He’ll never be given a chance to succeed.

Every day we make decisions on who gets to succeed and who doesn’t without even realizing it. -Malcom Gladwell

Outliers is a fantastic eye-opening book that has real life applications for any reader at any stage of life. I would definitely recommend you add it to your summer reading list.

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