Thursday, February 24, 2011

Outliers - Malcom Gladwell

And finally thanks to Vinod Ekbote my good friend who promised to get me this book as a gift, I got to read it. Malcolm Gladwell keeps you engaged thoroughly and its great fun to read his books. he comes up with interesting points every now and then just as he did with his 'Tipping Point' and 'Blink'. 'Outliers - The Story of Success' is another commendable effort by the author.

Gladwell begins with a definition of outlier - 'something that is situated away from a main or related body' or  'a statistical observation markedly different in value from others of the sample'. And then he explains how outliers, achievers, super successes in various ways come about. From the Italian immigrants from Roseto who lived in excellent health due to their adopted lifestyles, the Mathew effect and the Canadian hockey team, the 10,000 Hour rule, geniuses, lawyers, entrepreneurs, the warring Appalachian families who took everything personal, ethnic theories, Asian culture, maths and hardwork and so many more anecdotes and insights. Racy and thought provoking.

I completely agree with his 10,000 hour principle. If there is to be one takeaway from this book it is that for me. To be the expert one has to put in hours. It is the key difference between talent and accomplishment. there are many who do show more promise and talent than the champions of today but they do not make it because they are too distracted and do not put in enough disciplined work on what they are good at. This work is preparation that gives them the expert status. Once you get to the expert status you do find opportunities opening up, some more than another, and in my opinion that one who is most open gets to go all the way. The experts who are rigid about how they should progress go only that far. In the end I think everyone gets what they really and truly want - and deserve.

Another thing was about communication that came up in the ethnic theory of plane crashes. Too much training goes in without telling people their roles clearly. For example the copilots who were responsible for crashing the planes because of cultural differences and consequent lack of communication should have known their roles clearly that they must take over if the captain is not able to do his job. In India also there are several instances when we know that the boss is corrupt or including the whole team in doing something wrong and we play along since he is senior and we must listen to 'seniors' or 'elders' or 'people in power'. Not at the cost of not doing your job! This is something that is not told, that is thought as being implicit - 'come on, they should know'. No one knows buddy, and like those planes that crashed because you did not tell the copilot clearly what his role was, your team will crash too.

It's a great read. Though I don't agree with some theories and statistics, I agree with the central theme that the more you do something the better you are likely to be at it. 10,000 hours. That kind of work ethic also improves your outlook to life and makes it more open and it is this that I think opens more doors for you rather than chance (on which Gladwell stresses) - your attitude and outlook to life. Go read 'Outliers' - it engages you on various levels.

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