Friday, March 13, 2009

Outliers - A Great Book

I recently read Malcom Gladwell's most recent book, "Outliers - the Story of Success" - (his previous books were "Tipping Point" and "Blink" which I also enjoyed).

Like Gladwell's previous books, "Outliers" is an awesome book. The gist of the message is that sometimes success is not caused by what we think it is.

The book starts with a story of successful athletes and finds that most successful athletes were born in January, February, and March. This makes logical sense since athletes are frequently selected when they are fairly young and the difference of six and nine months in age from other students would make these students much larger and physically stronger than their smaller counter parts.

One point that I also liked was he said essentially there is no such thing as natural talent rather we all have talent and if we spend the requisite amount of time (he thinks it is 10,000 hours of practice) that we can all develop that talent.

The only addition that I would make to the book is it is not practice makes perfect; it is perfect practice makes perfect. My sense on some of the things I have done is I have spent a lot of time but not done things perfectly so it will take me time to unlearn some of my poor habits (for me, swimming might be one of these things).

He also has sections on geniuses and why just because you are a genius doesn't mean you will be highly successful. Clearly this has been something that I have known at some level and he just brings it out more.

I particularly liked his paragraph on cultures that are successful and how they tend to be rooted in high work ethic (one of my highest values).

Business Success Quote from Charlie Munger:

"In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren [Buffett] reads -- at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out."


At 4:18 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

What is your secret of finishing a book so fast - just few days back you reviewed one book. Some tips for speed reading please.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Andy Strote said...

I have Outliers but haven't read it yet. However, logic gives me a hard time with the notion of no natural talent, just 10,000 hours or so of focused practice. I would suggest that any player that's made the NHL or the top circuits in golf has practiced at least 10,000 hours. Just to get there, at any level, means you are the cream of the crop, you're the less than 1%. And yet, you're not Gretzky, you're not Tiger Woods. I think lots of practice gives you skill and high levels of skill will take you 98% of the way there. Innate talent, genetics (fast twitch muscles, listening to your 6th sense) and luck will get you the rest of the way.

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I wholeheartedly agree with you and Malcolm on the 10 000 hour rule. I can remember observing way back in the 1970's that the most gifted programmers took about 5 years to achieve a reasonable level of virtuoso performance.

I would suggest that, even while attending schools, these early hackers were logging at least 2 000 hours per year. Because of this observation, Malcolm's data point rang totally true for me.


At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Brenda | Trade Marks said...

I have to agree with that book one is born with a talent which is then train to perfection and developed not someone is born and a talent is then forced upon them, this will never happen, one either has it or they don't.


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