The irreversability in the coincidence — reflections from “Outliers”

In his unorthodox presentation of the successful people (Outliers: The Story of Success), Malcom Gladwell suggests the potential causes for what we see as strange patterns in certain communities and races. Lots of illustrations buttress his argument that success comes from a combination of hard work, great opportunities, and a community that is beneficial for the individual’s development.

The term “outliers” is frequently used in social sciences to refer to those extremely brilliant people. We tend to emphasize too much on personal efforts when we talk about success, but we often neglect the fact that many other preconditions are of tremendous importance. Opportunity is one of them. An intelligent person would feel hard to excel himself when he has no platform to make the best use of his talent. Bill Gates was fortunate enough to have been born at the right time for the take-off of the internet industry, and he was even more fortunate to have enjoyed the unique learning opportunities at University of Michigan. With passion and experience, he kicked off a better start than his peers.

Cultural legacy also plays a determinate role in personal development. I echo the author’s opinion that cultural norms are embedded in the language. In the book, the author writes about Korean Air’s frequent air crashes and identifies the strict hierarchy and ineffective communication as the major causes. From my personal experience, the change of language sometimes means a distinct state of mind. When I communicate in English with a person older than me, I naturally calls him or her by first name. This creates a more equal setting where the two of us are likely to exchange thoughts freely.

While taking the objective environment factors into account, the author also pointed out the significance of hard work in leading a person to success. He cited research sources that support the “10,000 hour rule”, i.e. a person becomes adept at one thing after he has been doing it for 10,000 hours. Devotion of time is a manifestation of long-lasting passion and real love. By devoting more time and energy in developing one skill or ability, one excels his peers and becomes the elite.

This book could make a perfect going-to-bed book for adults. It sheds some light on the topic of success and inspires one to think further.


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