Last year I was lucky enough to see Malcolm Gladwell live in Brighton (see my review). Thanks to a train journey to and from London yesterday, I’ve finally followed this up by reading Gladwell’s Outliers (Allen Lane, 2008). Many of you will have read this by now, but just in case you haven’t, the gist of Gladwell’s ideas is as follows:
- Becoming a world-class success in what you do, is only partially related to what you are as a person, i.e. what you were born with. You have to be tall enough to be a basketball player (but not necessarily the tallest) and clever enough to be a mathematician (but not necessarily the cleverest).
- To fulfil your potential takes a serious amount of practice (10 years or 10,000 hours as a guide). The more practice you do the better you will be.
- To be able to commit this amount of time to practice, you’ll need a supportive environment around you (aspirational middle-class parents with cash will help) and ideally be born into a culture that encourages hard work.
- Once you have the required skills, you then need a dose of good fortune to be around at the right time and in the right place for there to be a ready market for your skills.
Gladwell is a fabulous writer and backs up his ideas with some captivating accounts of real-life events and an intriguing exploration of the numbers. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, you could do a lot worse than to accompany him for at least a few hours on his journey.