Hey, my name’s Aden Pereira and for my LIS 201 presentation I read the book Outliers, the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell.
MalcolmGladwell is a Canadian born author whose works usually examine some sort of sociological phenomena. He’s the author of 2 other extremely successful books and the book I read, Outliers, was #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list for 8 weeks straight.
Outliers examines what traits you need to have to be successful. Most people think about brains or brawn, but Gladwell argues that there is another ,more important factor: you need to have the opportunity to be successful at what you do. I’ll go over a few examples he uses to make his point.
This is the roster, along with the birthdates, for the Canadian Junior National Hockey Team. As you may have noticed, 17 of the 25 players were born in the months January- April.
After viewing the last slide, you may be tempted to write it off as a coincidence, but as you can see here, that is not the case.Why is there this discrepancy in birth months? A 12 month age gap is a huge advantage at that age, and the older kids are incorrectly labeled as more talented when really they are just more physically mature than the other kids.
The older kids are then selected for all star teams, where they play more games, practice more, and get better coaching so the talent gap that only existed because of differences in physical maturity now exists in reality.
Another example Gladwell used was Terman’s experiment, in which Lewis Terman set out to confirm his idea that IQ is the single biggest determinant of success. He found the “best and the brightest” from the nation’s elementary schools and hypothesized that nearly all of them would go on to be wildly successful.
Before I show the results of Terman’s experiment, I’ll give another example Gladwell used: Chris Langan. Given his outrageously high IQ, why haven’t you heard of Chris Langan? Because he’s been working construction most of his adult life.
How much of a correlation is there between IQ and success? Some of Terman’s gifted group of children were extremely successful, but most lived ordinary lives, and some were even failures. Terman himself deemed the experiment a failure. There was, however, one factor that almost all the successful children had in common…
There’s that word again. Why weren’t all of Terman’s kids successful? Why hasn’t Chris Langan won a Nobel Prize? Opportunity. Gladwell argues wealthier children are given more of an opportunity to be successful, much like the older hockey players.
We’ve all heard the stereotype, but where’d it come from? Since Jews had trouble getting hired by the top law firms, they were forced to start their own. From there, they fed off the scraps of what the top law firms didn’t want, which at that time was litigation work.
When litigations and corporate takeovers exploded years later, those same Jewish lawyers who weren’t allowed into the top firms were the one’s people came to for this suddenly highly desired work. Were they any smarter or more talented than other lawyers? Not necessarily. Their seemingly unfortunate circumstance simply afforded them an opportunity that wasn’t available to others.
Gladwell might have been stating the obvious when he said it, but he established what he called 10,000 hour rule. The concept is that you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to master something. So, along with that opportunity, for the lawyers, hockey players, geniues, or anyone else, they needed to practice. A lot.
In the end, Gladwell argues that success doesn’t always boil down to IQ or talent, but sometimes sheer luck. Those who make it to the top are not necessarily our best and brightest, many of those with the most potential to be successful never get that all important opportunity. You need to be at the right place at the right time to be successful.
While the book debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for 8 weeks, it wasn’t all good reviews for Outliers. Critics lamented that he oversimplified complex topics, withheld information contrary to his thesis and just was plain stating the obvious.
I flew through this book, it was easy to read and Gladwell is without question a talented writer. While he attributes a lot of the ability to be successful to dumb luck, he also believes that you need hard work, which anyone can do regardless of IQ. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who asked.
Outliers The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell By Aden Pereira
Malcolm Gladwell Canadian author born in 1963. Outliers Published on November 18, 2008 #1 on the New York Times bestsellers List. Author of The Tipping Point and Blink.
What Equals Success? Preconceived notion of traits you need to have to be successful
Coincidence? In anyelite group of Canadian hockey players: 40% born between January and March 30% between April and June 20% between July and September 10 % between October and December
Opportunity Eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey in Canada is January 1 Boy who turns 10 on January 2nd plays against boy who turns 10 at the end of the year 12 month age gap = huge advantage at that age Those thought to be more talented get more of an opportunity to get better.
Terman’s Experiment In 1921, Lewis Terman set out to find the “best and the brightest” of the nation’s elementary schools. Tested 250,000 children, identified 1,470 children whose IQ’s averaged over 140 and reached as high as 200.
Meet Chris Langan Einstein’s IQ = 150 Chris Langan’s IQ = 195 IQ is literally off the charts, needs to take special IQ test designed for geniuses.
IQ and Success “There is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ” – Lewis Terman (prior to his experiment) “We have seen that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated” – Lewis Terman (post-experiment)
Opportunity Overwhelming majority of the children deemed failures came from poor families. Chris Langan grew up with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. Wealthier children usually go to better equipped schools, participate in more intellectually stimulating extracurricular activities, and are the recipients of better, more active, parenting.
Jewish Lawyers In 1940’s and 50’s top NYC law firms would not hire any Jewish lawyers. Forced to start their own law firms Took the work that top law firms didn’t want. Most law firms didn’t have a division dedicated to defending and filing lawsuits. “Corporations just didn’t sue each other in those days” – Paul Cravath, founder of one of the top NYC law firms.
Opportunity Discrimination against Jews created an opportunity for them. Litigation and corporate takeovers exploded years later Jews already well versed in that work corporations came to them before “top” law firms
10,000 Hour Rule Just an opportunity is not enough You need to practice Beatles played 8 hours a day, everyday before making it big. Bill Gates “lived” computer programming before Microsoft.
What Does it Mean? Not developing our nation’s entire talent pool IQ and talent should be greatest determinants of success Sometimes it boils down to luck
Critiques Gladwell oversimplified complex sociological phenomena to “compact, pithy explanations Business week questioned whether Gladwell withheld information contrary to his thesis “Why doesn’t Gladwell hold a tenured professorship at the University of the Bleedin’ Obvious?” – Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
My Opinion Easy, Quick, and Fascinating Read. Some material, while interesting, didn’t seem relevant. Uplifting Highly recommended