Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


Since this is my first post, I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself: I’m a recent college grad desperately seeking a job. To keep myself sane during the search I’ve been reading even more than I normally do (normally I read about 1 or 2 books each week). Most recently I’ve been trying to read books about business and things related to the fields I’m looking to get into.

On that note, several people recommended that I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. Having finished it, I can see why it would be an important book to read. Gladwell analyzes several of the most successful people in our country and dissects their personal histories in order to explain their success. He makes valid arguments for why each person was able to rise above their peers and gives the reader a new perspective on the reasons why some people make it and others don’t.

Gladwell’s two main claims are that it matters when you are born, and in order to become an expert at something you have to put in 10,000 hours of hard work before it pays off. He argues that it is not just talent that gets people to the top but also being born at the right time and having the right resources available. 

Gladwell uses the examples of Bill Joy and Bill Gates, two men who were very successful in the realms of computer programming and software. He claims that these two men were both born in just the right time frame (1952-1958) and thus were able to become part of the technological revolution. Being born within these years put them in their mid-twenties at just the right time, but they also both had incredible opportunities as teenagers to become computer experts. 

History has proven that this theory is entirely valid. But the question that I’m left with as the reader is “what’s next?” Obviously we can’t predict the future trends in our culture, but what’s happening now that will become the new Silicon Valley? 

Some quick internet research tells me that of the main social networking sites popular in the last few years, (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and earlier MySpace) the men who created these sites were born in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, with one exception. Mark Zuckerburg, of Facebook fame and easily the most successful of the four, was born in the early eighties. If that’s the case, then is the social networking boom about to bust? It’s certainly not an industry that will be going away anytime soon, but even with the popularity of Twitter and the need for Linkedin in the professional world, it’s doubtful that another of this type of site will become more popular than Facebook. 

So, what’s next? What’s the big thing that people born in the late eighties and early nineties will be successful at? I think it will start to become apparent very soon and I’m interested to see what the next big thing will be.

Outliers is a great book to read if you’re interested in learning how others have earned their success. It’s really a captivating and fast read. I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already. 

You can find out more about the book and the author at his website: http://malcolmgladwell.com/

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