Saturday, January 16, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 2: Outliers

This week I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. By far, this is the best of Mr. Gladwell's book. He has hit upon the right mix of story telling and statistical information. An outlier is "a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the other of the sample." Mr. Gladwell offers a discussion on the background of people, companies and groups that are outliers, those that stand out from the rest.

Media outlets have made much of the fact of one of the conclusions in the book - it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become extraordinarily good at something. The examples that he uses to explain this fact are well known people - software giant Bill Gates and The Beatles. The back story on these two entities is detailed, telling of the circumstances and opportunities that came together over an extended period of time that worked together to launch them on the road to success in their respective fields. Clearly put, success is hard work!

Examining such outliers as successful merchants, athletes, ommercial airline crashes and family feuds, Mr. Gladwell takes the reader down the road of success and contrasts the choices successful people made with the choices made by their contemporaries, identifying the background cultural factors that contributed to the decision making process.

Throughout the book, Mr. Gladwell repeatedly equates success with money and fame. The notable exceptions to this are the chapters on family feuds and airline crashes.  This book gave me a lot to ponder - the importance of relationships, even casual ones, and the importance of simply asking for the opportunity to do something. As I finished reading this book, there was one idea that I could not let loose of, so I'll put it out for consideration -10,000 hours sounds like a lot of time, but it really isn't. There are 8760 hours in one year. Bill Gates, The Beatles and countless athletes put in this much time on their endeavors, spread out over relatively few years, before being at the top of their fields. They took advantage of every opportunity made available to them and made their own opportunities when possible. So, without intending to be legalistic in any way, here is my big thought:
What would my relationship with God look like if I put 10,000 hours into it? Am I looking for opportunites for that to happen?


WildIris said...

I read Outliers too.(You can find my thoughts about it at my blog along with another associated book Talent is Overrated.)If a person invested quality and quantity time into any endeavor the results would be above average.

Amy said...

This is next up on my list. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks for the review.