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: Is life what you make it?

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I dig through my archives and read through some of my past posts. Usually, this exercise makes me laugh because what was I thinking a writer is his/her own worst critic.

The other day, however, I read one of the first posts I ever wrote, and I actually kind of liked it. I wrote the article in more of a free form writing voice than I currently use, which is refreshing on days like today when my writer’s block is more frequent than Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes.

What do you think?

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Originally posted: August 19, 2012

My sister left for college this week. She’s officially a buckeye. I know that those of you living outside the state of Ohio find our mascot ridiculous since it is, well… a nut, but the scarlet and gray hold a dear place in the hearts of those from the state that is at the ‘heart of it all.’

As I texted my sister on the morning of her departure, I felt sentimental. But, not in the way that you might think. I didn’t think about my first day moving into my dorm room, the two-hour drive that I endured from our hometown to the new ‘big city’ of Pittsburgh or the way that it felt to walk a college campus on the first day as a real college student. Instead, I felt old. I still feel old. Boo. These memories are not something that I easily conjured up like it was for me when my brother embarked on his first year of college four years ago.

I was, however, reminded of how I actually chose which school to attend. You see, I was an oddball. I had NO IDEA where I wanted to go to college – all I knew was that I needed to escape Ohio. I applied ALL OVER the place – New York City, South Carolina, Kentucky, Clarkson University (just google that one)… in basic words, I was a hot mess. I remember my dad, who was most likely scared shii-less of my college ADD-ness, asked how I was going to choose which school to attend when my options were all scattered. How would I decide on the criteria and decision-making factors when every school was so unique and non-comparable?

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Hmm… good question, dad. I remember pondering it for a while before declaring… “well, isn’t college just what you make it?!!” Sure, I could frolic around the Big Apple with the social elites, sip on moonshine in the south or freeze my bootay off in a place where hockey overrules football as the official sport, but really, when it comes down to it, I would be the one to ‘make’ my college career. I would decide how much energy to apply to school work, internships and friends within the environment that contains it all.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how mature of a statement this was to declare at the age of 18. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. There are plenty of young adults and people who have similar realizations, including my very own sister. However, I’ve been surprised by how many other people in the world do not have these similar viewpoints. The universe is full of people who blame their circumstances; coworkers who blame the company and others who blame their establishments.

What is it about life that causes people to continually explore their options? Between jobs, hobbies, significant others, even places where we work out and where we live, it is as if everyone is living their own version of Goldilocks. It’s too easy, too hard, too hot, too cold, not the right fit, etc.

I guess ultimately my point is that I’ve always lived my life with the attitude that life is what you make it. I hope that I don’t come across as egotistical or boastful. I’m just saying that this attitude has always worked for me. Whether it is my college choice, my career or the basic decisions in my life, I tend to give things my all in the hopes that the ‘all’ will make those things great. So, the next time you think about exploring all the options, perhaps try driving your energy into one thing; it finally might be the one that’s “just right.”