Review: Outliers

Remember when I held a book challenge in 2014, and didn’t even read one of the four books?  That’s actually not true.  I started The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and got about 100 pages in before I had to quit.  I learned a lot about the McDonald’s food manufacturing process – as weird as it is – but eventually the book’s science talk and agriculture statistics wore down on me.

So, that was that.

I did, however, finish the last book in the 2014 challenge six months in to 2015.  No big deal, or anything.  Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, is a non-fictional assessment about what makes people successful – but, surprisingly doesn’t have anything to do with master’s degrees, running up the career ladder, or who people know.  Instead, this story is all about how, when and where a person is raised determines his/her opportunities for success.

In a true nature vs. nurture argumentative fashion, Gladwell explores examples of the most successful people in recent generations (think Bill Gates), and how their unique life circumstances propelled them to capitalism stardom. Malcolm is also coined for bringing popularity to the discovery that it takes 10,000 hours for a person to master a field.  It is shocking to realize how many of the people in Outliers had 10,000 hours of ‘practice’ at such a young age; Mozart, the Beatles, and Bill Gates himself each had at least 10,000 hours practicing their mastery by the time they hit their early 20’s – setting themselves up for unique opportunities to continue pursuing their passions professionally.

Outliers is in interesting reading choice for me because it is quite unlike other books that I enjoy, which are usually funny, teaching a life lesson, or have a unique writing style.  Gladwell’s book is a straight-forward, yet engrossing assessment on how culture and our environments play an important role in our professional development.  Overall, I did not find a true ending or personal ah-ha moment within the story; instead I chose to take away that each of us can examine our own childhood and cultural experiences for unique opportunities for personal success.  What does being an almost twenty-nine year-old in 2015 afford me?  How am I different for being raised in Ohio?  What opportunities can come from my time studying abroad in France?

As I ponder some of these soul-searching questions, here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.  If you’re looking for a unique take on what makes people successful, I hope you pick up a copy of Outliers!

  • “By the first time they [the Beatles] had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times.  Do you know how extraordinary that is?  Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”

 

  • “Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.”

 

  • “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”

Linking up with Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop for prompt #3: book review!

Repost: Cleveland – Land of the Creatives

I have to be honest. When all the buzz surrounding Lebron James’ possible return to Cleveland started, I ignored it.  To say that the whole situation reminded me of his departure to Miami four years ago is an understatement.  For me, Lebron or no Lebron meant nothing. He departed my heart many years ago.

When I heard of his actual decision, I was shocked. Truth be told, my ignorance of the team debate partially stemmed from a strong belief that he would never return to Cleveland again. When I started to see friends’ posts on Facebook with the link to his Sports Illustrated article, I ignored those as well. Why would I want to read the words of a guy most recently known as a traitor?

Eventually, I succumbed to the peer pressure, otherwise known as news feed takeover, and read his article. Shoot. I found many detailed arguments that resonate with me – the desire to spread his wings and leave the Ohio borders for a period of time, the constant lure back to his home state, the determination to give something back to the city by the lake that raised him.

The underlying message throughout the article emerges prominently in one of the very last lines:

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. -Lebron James

This is a common thread within each Clevelander: we know what it’s like to be at the bottom and fight for what you want or rather, more often that not, fight for what you need. We know what it’s like to be an underdog more frequently than the number of times we’ve tasted Stadium Mustard. Lebron’s words are not foreign to me; in fact they are something I’ve written about on this blog before.  And although at the time of the original post I was a little perturbed with the King, many of these words still ring true today.

***

Originally posted: January 18, 2013 (slightly edited)

Whenever I tell someone that I’m originally from Cleveland, I usually get the standard response “Oh, I’m so sorry about that.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard it all before.  I used to try and come up with an intriguing response like “You just need to know where to go or.. visit in the summer; the lake is beautiful!”  Well, from now on, I’ve come up with something more appropriate:

F%*! YOU

And here’s why:

I’ve formally lived in only three cities so far in my lifetime: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

In D.C., I met the most physically fit and intelligent people of my life.  It’s hard to keep up with them most days.

In Pittsburgh, I ran into the most caring and simple individuals.  A parking lot and a case of Iron Cities are enough to keep them entertained for hours.

But, in Cleveland… good ole Cleveland; that’s the land of the Creatives.

Covering 82.4 square miles (thank you Wikipedia) just south of Lake Erie, Cleveland ranks as the 7th most dangerous city in the nation. The city hasn’t won an NFL Championship since 1964, the World Series since 1948 or the NBA title.. ever.  Lebron, excuse me, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still an a**hole. But please media keep calling us the Mistake on the Lake or poking fun at why Nick Saban would EVER want to go to Cleveland.  Salt to the wound feels good.

In December 1978, Cleveland became the first major American city to enter a financial default on federal loans since the Great Depression.  The per capita income for the city is $14,291. 26.3% of the population and 22.9% of families are below the poverty line.

In Cleveland, there is no “blue blood trust fund that we can dip in to.”  I learned that to get anything in life, it must be achieved through hard work ethic and fearless determination.  Complaining is the quickest shortcut to a dead-end, which is hard to accept because trust me, we have a lot to complain about.

My family is fortunate, but I witnessed our fair share of struggles.  I watched my father get on an airplane to Chicago more times than I could count.  I watched my mom leave her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son at odd hours of the night to work night shifts at the local hospital.

I know far too many people who work more than one two jobs just to get by and support their families.  What is even more special, though, is the amount of talent that flows through my newsfeed each day.  Singers – like him and them.  Musicians, photographers, skateboarders with a dream and DJs, too.

It’s well-known that Cleveland has its limitations – but to make art out of the limitations – that is where the true magic lies.  Clevelanders are the creatives quite simply because we can create anything out of nothing, even nothings that are laced with poverty, social injustice and lack of media coverage.

I realize that I don’t live in the city any more, but I carry it with me wherever I go.  I see it in others who have grown up in the area and moved on as well.  Cleveland  and its weaknesses quite simply motivate all who covet it to rise above what holds them down.

And, to go out on a limb, I think that is worth far more in the long run than any championship ring.