Secrets of success from the author of Blink

If your New Year’s resolution was to read more, you could do no better than to feast your eyes on this, the author’s third very interesting book.

The Outliers

By Malcolm Gladwell

$32.00 Little Brown Publishers

If your New Year’s resolution was to read more, you could do no better than to feast your eyes on this, the author’s third very interesting book.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point and Blink, both page turners for the non-fiction reader. Now, he gives us his ideas about success.

We have all heard about people who were “self made men,” captains of industry who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Not so, says this author. There was always someone or something: an unusual opportunity or a mentor in the background.

Maybe even the happenstance of their birth date, was a key to their success.

Part one of this book is entitled: Opportunity. Here the author talks about people we think we know, The Beatles for instance.

Was their sound so different or was it just the right time for their kind of music?

Biographies have recorded that it wasn’t a question of good management. There is an explanation but it may not make some wanna-be musicians happy. It’s practice. The kind of practice that was forced on them by penury and opportunity.

Maybe you are thinking that IQ will make someone successful. Here are the stories of undiscovered and/or unfulfilled genius.

Chris Langan was a man with 195 IQ, who, after only moderate success retired to a small farm, writing ground breaking scientific papers which would never be published or rewarded. Why was there no success in being so smart?

Gladwell tells the story of a young Jewish immigrant family who came to America during the depression. They were desperately poor.

Yet Joe Flom, whose story he relates, was amazingly successful. Perhaps it looks, on the surface, that he made his own luck, but this author sniffs out the reason. He makes a convincing case, that where you came from makes a big difference.

Part two is entitled: Legacy.

Early settlers to America came from many countries, often moving together with others having similar roots. Gladwell explores a group of people who settled in the Appalachians.

In their own countries these people worked as herders; solitary people who are obliged to defend their livestock. As a people they developed a “culture of honor.” The famous Hatfield-McCoy feud and many others like it were the result of defending that honour.

How does the background of a pilot result in an airplane crash? Nations differ in their hierarchy, and that factor can keep you flying (or not). Do you want to know about this?

What about those Asian kids, cleaning up on all the math exams and scholarships? Where does the drive and determination come from?

There is a story here of a ghetto school in Baltimore, where school runs from 7:25 a.m. until 5 p.m. and from 9a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Success, with lots of hard work.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book is about success that is, “the product of history and community, of opportunity and legacy.” It’s an exciting read.

Peggy Freeman is a local freelance writer.

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