Recently, I had the opportunity to read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers. The man is indeed brilliant; you’ve gotta’ love his eye for details and his research is phenomenal. However, I think that – like most of us – he comes to conclusions based on an already-established belief system. In other words, he sees the world in a certain way and tends to interpret his evidence to support that world-view.
I notice I have a tendency to do the same thing. This is one reason why it’s so important that we not only check our own premises (to keep ourselves from doing this as much as humanly possible) but that – before we accept the ideas of someone else just because they speak in front of lots of people and write books – we check their premises, as well. Learn their worldview first and you’ll see how much it encompasses and affects their entire message.
Yes, I’m including not just Mr. Gladwell, but everyone with a platform – including me – in the above statement. While I’m pointing my index finger outward, I’m pointing three others fingers back at myself (my thumb simply won’t bend that far backwards). 🙂
Actually, apparently Confucius realized this about himself, as well because one of his most famous quotes warns us not to blindly accept the teachings of anyone…including his.
So, what was Mr. Gladwell’s basic conclusion that, to me, seemed to be a stretch to connect his research with his pre-conceived worldview? It was that – in terms of accomplishment – luck is more important to success than the individual himself or herself. In other words, that without a very unique set of circumstances, including year of birth, place of birth, one’s parents, culture, state of technology, etc., outliers (basically, those individuals who have accomplished extraordinary success) wouldn’t necessarily be as successful as they are.
Well, literally, I would imagine that’s true. We are what we are in part because of all those things. However, that’s also what is known as a “straw man.” There is truth within it, but it’s not the entire story. We all have free will to work within the context of our external factors and succeed or not succeed both because of them and in spite of them.
However, Mr. Gladwell’s conclusions, in large part, say to the reader, “If you haven’t accomplished great things, don’t take it personally; it’s not you; you simply didn’t have the “luck” that these people had.
And, it’s easy to see that this, indeed, is the author’s world-view. Of course, mine being different, I would reach a different conclusion.
Regardless of how much ‘the hand we’re dealt’ actually affects our outcome, what I can say with 100% certainty is that belief in that message of predestined limitations does not serve anyone well. In fact, every day, people are rising above the crowd, rising above the very level that Mr. Gladwell would say is their destiny.
They are only able to do this because they don’t hold to Mr. Gladwell’s beliefs or conclusions. Rather than focusing on (and using as an excuse) the “norm” of the masses, they believe in the power of the individual and in self-determination. Ironically, the more individuals catch on to that way of thinking, the less the “norm” will be the…”the norm”
In Part Two, we’ll see how this ties in to the title of this article and that – in my opinion – Winner’s Win…in pretty much any situation you put them.
* None of the above is meant to imply that the author didn’t have some absolutely brilliant points. In fact, his first chapter, about the birth month of Canadian Hockey Players and the results is eye-opening and – in my opinion – pretty much indisputable. I highly recommend the book as it will definitely get you thinking. Just be aware of the author’s world-view while reading and don’t accept conclusions without asking “why?”
The same goes for when you read my books and articles, just like this one. Or…even the writings of Confucius. Hey, he even said so. 🙂