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What if I’m not an Outlier?

Posted on : 10-18-2010 | By : Adam Piotrowski | In : Books, Entrepreneurship

Tags: , ,


In my constant quest to figure out the “It Factor” that true follow-throughers have enabling them to actually achieve the goals they set out to accomplish I’m always looking for a good read on the subject.  There’s no better way than studying some real life examples, no?

My latest read was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s definitely an interesting read. Essentially, the book is a study about the patterns that shape greatly successful people (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, pro athletes, etc). Our common thought is that greatest comes from hardwork and determination. That’s the true American ideology, no? That you can achieve anything you want as long as you’re willing to put in the work to get there.

Gladwell’s argument is that this is not the case. True, it takes hardwork, but his point is that ultimately, the underlying reason for most success stories is a combination of cultural influences and timing. I’m not going to spoil the book for you by going into it all, but I will say that I finished the book and one of my first thoughts was this:

What if I’m not an outlier?
What if the timing of when I was born didn’t coincide with the optimal timing for me to be successful in the things I really want to do?

He does provide a lot of great examples to support the arguments he presents. But like any study, it’s definitely easier to present your theory favorably if you only give attention to the examples that support your idea. Granted Bill Gates is a great example to support your idea, as are the others he presents. Yet I find it hard to believe that there aren’t a good amount of examples of people without the ideal cultural or timing factors that prove those aren’t the only cases.

Likewise, what about all the people who also grew up at the same time and had the same or similar opportunities and cultural upbringing of those highly successful people? Opportunities are never afforded to just one individual, but perhaps only one individual capitalizes on a given opportunity. That’s where I think the follow-through factor comes into play. I have to believe that. If not then wouldn’t we become victims of our own circumstances?

There is no doubt that the timing of our birth and the culture in which we grow up as a profound impact on the opportunities we get and the individuals we become. We are definitely products of our environment in many aspects, but do we not have more control over our futures than Outliers may suggest?

I’d like to think so.

Comments (1)

Thanks for some quality points there. I am kind of new to online , so I printed this off to put in my file, any better way to go about keeping track of it then printing?