May 26, 2009

The Essense of "Outliers"

I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell's most recent offering - a book called Outliers. In the book, the author puts forward his views about key factors which contribute to an individuals success. He starts out by examining the causes of why the majority of Canadian professional ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year, how Bill Gates achieved his extreme wealth, and how two people with exceptional intelligence, Christopher Langan and J. Robert Oppenheimer, end up with such vastly different fortunes.

I enjoyed the book and decided to find out how others felt about Malcolm's ideas. As I read through various reviews and interestingly, most people seemed to like the book - but for very different reasons.

I picked up some new learning's and reaffirmed others - from Outliers.

There are 3 key criteria which working individuals need in order to excel. Autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward. These are the 3 key qualities that work has to have, if it's to be satisfying.

It has to be about more than just - the amount of money we make. We spend so much of our lives working that it would be a real tragedy if our work does not provide us with a strong sense of personal or professional fulfillment.

Work that fulfills these 3 criteria - is meaningful. I truly believe that if you work hard enough, assert yourself and stay focused on purposeful goals, you can accomplish some great things.

Hard work can be very hard - if it doesn't have meaning. Once it does, it's no longer work - it becomes a means to an end. A happy, fulfilling and invigorating end.

Malcom makes two interesting assertions about children's upbringing. The first is that parents who take an interest in their children early, and teach them to be confident, self assured and assertive, are preparing actually preparing them to grow up with a healthy sense of "entitlement". Having grown up in a country with a very high respect quotient - I see the value in striking the right balance between teaching children to be respectful of their elders whilst simultaneously building their self-confidence.

The second key point which Malcom makes - is that the children of Eastern Jews who relocated to the U.S and started their own businesses - benefited from the can do environment in which they grew up. They watched their parents accomplish some great things through sheer determination - and this had a very positive and indelible effect on their view of the world.

There's no doubt that it helps to grow up in a home where your parents and relatives are smart, resourceful, driven - go getter's. However, the most important point here is that the Jewish families which Malcolm profiled were likely very close knit and worked hard to provide their children and relatives with great opportunities. That trend is likely the single most important reason why their children grew up to be successful Doctors, Lawyers and White Collar workers.