Book Review Fridays: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
I once confined myself to Christian books. “What’s the value of reading books with a secular worldview,” I thought. But Tim Challies encourages people to “read widely.” In a blog, Challies gives few reasons why Christians should consider reading regularly in the mainstream. I was convinced.
So as part of my “reading widely” practice, I started with Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It was endorsed by a speaker I once listened to, and was recommended by Challies as well.
Outliers, subtitled The Story of Success, is a book that lets readers view success in a very different way. I once thought that success is a product of one’s inherent ability. I believe I’m not alone on this. But the book proves otherwise.
Gladwell points that success isn’t a product of one’s ability and motivation. Rather, it is a product of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies. The book is rightly divided into these two factors. To prove his point, Gladwell explains among many others:
• Why Canadian hockey players born in the earlier months of the year will most likely get to play professionally than those born in the latter months.
• What do Bill Gates and the Beatles have in common.
• Why Korean pilots will most likely crash airplanes than their racial/ethnic counterparts.
What I like about this book is that every chapter builds on the previous one. So as I read further and further, Gladwell’s argument for success becomes stronger and stronger. From the first chapter until the last, he does this. That’s why by the end of the book, I was convinced that success is really a matter of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies.
Also, I found that Gladwell is fond of gathering stories and statistics to illustrate his point. And these stories and statistics weren’t just informative, but also interesting.
Allow me to share my thoughts on a chapter that made the most impact on me.
Constant Practice Makes Perfect
Chapter 2, which is titled The 10,000-Hour Rule and is my favorite chapter in the book, argues that for one to master a craft, he must devote ten thousand hours of practice. In a study done in Academy of Music in Berlin, three groups of violinists were made: Those judged to be world-class performers, those seen just to be “good”, and those unlikely to play professionally or simply intended to be music teachers in public schools.
They all started practicing roughly around the age of five. But as they reached the age of eight, differences started to spring up. Those deemed to be “great” had an increasing hours of practice as they grew, while others didn’t. By the time the “greats” were twenty, the amount of hours they devote for practice totaled to ten thousand hours! And the same pattern emerged for professional pianists.
This shows that the one who gets to practice more is more likely to succeed than the one who doesn’t. This is true for the Beatles. Before they invaded the music scene, they were already playing eight hours a day, seven days a week, for strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany from 1960-1962. And this is also true for Bill Gates, who got to program for a lot of hours during his younger years.
Indeed, practice makes perfect. Or: Constant practice makes perfect!
Outliers is a very good read, obviously a work of a brilliant author. If you want to understand more about success, then grab a copy of this book. Let it change the way you view success. And make this a part of your “reading widely” habit. I recommend this book to you.
Recent book reviews in The Reading Disciple: