Reading: Outliers

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I bought this book because I enjoyed two previous books written by this author: Blink and The Tipping Point. And even though Malcolm Gladwell once again provides a highly entertaining read, I came away disappointed, as this book does not deliver on its promiss. Nevertheless, the author is very adept at telling an interesting story and therefor the book is a good read, but short on content.

The thing I enjoyed about the book is that Gladwell – as he did in his earlier books – makes you aware of underlying explanations of hidden truths. He starts the book with an example from the hockey world, where he demonstrates that birthdays are a large factor in predicting future success in a hockey career. The book then continues with stories that describe that even though people claim they are “self-made” this is not true: the origins of high achievement lie in circumstances beyond one’s control. Legacy and opportunity combined with excellent timing are more important than a high IQ. One of the examples shows that being part of a “small” generation gives you access to better education (smaller classes and motivated teachers), and a greater chance of success. Also, the cut-off to achieve success in a certain field generally lies at 10.000 hours, meaning that spending at least 10.000 focused hours on a certain study or activity will usually lead to high achievements at a later point.

The reason why I found the book not satisfactorily is that the author once again uses the formula as in earlier books: he analyzes a certain phenomenon, finds the common threads and creates an entertaining story.  Where that was new in Blink, a little bit less new in The Tipping Point it now is a repetition of a concept. The analysis is just that, and it never leads to a practical application, which leaves the reader unsatisfied and disappointed. I also did not understand the meaning of the last chapter, about his own family, in relation to the other chapters. If you have never read a book from Gladwell, you will enjoy Outliers just as much as Blink, however if you have read his other books I would not recommend that you read this one.

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