Why ‘Outliers’ Should be on Your Desert Island List

By Brent Glass (@BrentAMG)

Outliers

If you have been tuned into the hallowed “bestseller” list of novels in the past five years, you have certainly heard of Malcolm Gladwell.  He has had a little success.  And by a little, of course, I mean that his four books – The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures – were all national bestsellers.  I will not say more than that because I am afraid if I went into his story any more I would begin to gush.

Admittedly, I was behind the curve on reading Malcolm Gladwell.  It is quite unfortunate for me considering it is a dream of mine to write on trends of life.  I was explaining to Blake what I was really interested in and he said, “You have to read Malcolm Gladwell.”  Until that point, I had only known that Freakonomics (which I also highly recommend) accomplished such writing.  Recently, I finished Outliers and I think you should read it too.

Anyone who has taken a statistics or science class will know what an outlier is.  By definition, an outlier is “a scientific term used to describe a things or phenomena outside of the normal experience.”  i.e. Say you are looking at a dot graph.  There are twenty points clustered together and two that are far from the mass.  Those two points are outliers.

There are an infinite number of possible reactions and emotions to this book.  The premise is that successful people cannot attribute their success solely to their own ambition, drive, and intelligence.  While this is definitely a part of the successful’s journey, Gladwell argues that one must examine the world around the successful to perfectly understand what got them there.  To make his case, Mr. Gladwell skillfully synthesizes stories and research, creating addictive prose that will captivate any mind.

Throughout the book, Gladwell points out eerie trends that occur in life.  He explains why a majority of higher-level hockey players are born within the first three months of the year, why Asians are better at math, and why Koreans are (were) not the best pilots.  Additionally, he makes a compelling case for why it was circumstances and luck that made Bill Gates and the Beatles.

Along the way, one will begin to buy into almost everything Gladwell writes.  He has a knack for building credibility.  The reader begins to see the applicability of some of the points he brings up.  Something to prove his influence.  There are more parents now holding their children back from beginning kindergarten for a year because of the positive correlation between the age (months matter) of students and their standardized test scores, which Gladwell presented in Outliers.  There hasn’t been a study completed by those parents to prove this point, but the trend just started and the book has sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. Coincidence?  I think not.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Outliers.  It offered a fresh perspective in observing the world around us.  It was well researched and the story-telling was top-notch.  Furthermore, it managed to be encouraging.  Considering that the premise was that hard-work and raw intelligence won’t necessarily make you successful, it could have come off as pessimistic.  However, Gladwell turned that notion on its head.  Instead of spreading a dreary message, he gave hope.  One can be successful if they create their own luck.  If I was on a desert island I would want this book to be with me.

Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is beginning a marketing project designed to expand the reach of Sagamore Institute and Eureka College, creating a social media management business, Connect You Consulting, and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either public policy, political science or business.

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