Book Reviews

[Review] Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Review Outliers: The Story of Success

Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.

This book is extremely comprehensible. After my disappointments with Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, finally, I found Gladwell’s best book. This book shows every factor that leads to success: when and where you were born, who are your parents, how hard you work, your innate ability, etc.

At Business Statistics’ class, I learned that outlier is ‘a data point in a set that is very much bigger or smaller than the next nearest data point’. In the context of this book, outliers refer to the minority of people who are the most famous and the most successful in the world. In this book, he answers our the questions: What makes successful people different? How does our family condition affect our success? How does nurturing surpass nature in shaping our achievements?

In Vietnam, we often praise poor students who achieve the highest score in the entrance examination in universities and believe that they will become the most successful people in Vietnam with the highest salaries and prestigious leader position. However, Gladwell throws cold water on that idea by asserting that hardworking and talent are just not enough:

The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievements in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.

Though he emphasizes the importance of family circumstances, it is undeniable that efforts contribute significantly to one’s success. He holds that success equals talents plus opportunities. He gives an example of The Beatles, this band had practiced every day until nights so that they could be skillful. In order to succeed, he suggests that we should have 10000 hours of practicing. However, it takes responsibilities from your parents to offer children opportunities to practice. For example, Bill Gates has a family which always encouraged him to study computer. Steve Jobs’s neighborhood was filled with HP engineers, which is an opportunity for him to learn.

The most appealing part of this book is that the author mentions about how wealthy families teach their children the right to speak up. It is essential for children to reason and negotiate in every situation. The chapter about air crash is also amazing. He explains Hofstede’s dimension and gives us reasons why it is a peril to mitigate the situation in flights. Moreover, this book gratefully appreciates normal laborers’ hard work in societies which bring success to their children.

Overall, parents, teachers and educators should read this book to understand how to nurture children so that they can be successful, not only in terms of academic achievement but also communication skills.

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