An outlier, according to the dictionary, is “a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample”, in other words, a statistical anomaly. In his newest book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell attempts to examine why a few people succeed beyond the norm, and what made them outliers.
Along the way, he examines youth hockey players in Canada and how when they were born is more important than any inherit skill they may have; Bill Gates and The Beatles and how practice allows you to be ready for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; Jewish lawyers and how cultural prejudices may prepare you for an opportunity later in life; and several others. The book attempts to debunk the myth that a successful person can be “self-made”, and shows that luck, cultural heritage, and the opportunities of your predecessors may have more to do with being present at the right moment in time, with the right set of skills, to take advantage of an opportunity.
I’ve always enjoyed Gladwell’s writings, both in The New Yorker and his other books. I enjoyed this one as well. However, compared to his first two books, this one doesn’t hit the same chord. It is interesting to look a little deeper at some outliers and how they may have gotten where they did, but it isn’t fascinating; and that’s the difference between The Tipping Point/Blink, and Outliers.