I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book Outliers: The Story of Success. I loved his book Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, and I wasn’t disappointed with Gladwell’s newest tidbits of information that I never considered before.
However, I have to admit that something about this book bothered me. Gladwell offers several examples where he tries to show that success has more to do with sheer luck than anything else. You can have all of the smarts, motivation and support in the world. But, if you’re born the wrong year, didn’t have Daddy Warbucks as your father or went to the wrong university, you’re pretty much destined for mediocrity. Or worse, poverty.
Where does that leave people to go? So much for movies like The Pursuit of Happyness, true life stories like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and the old addage that life is what you make it. Unless you’re born under the right star, you might as well forget it.
On the other hand, Gladwell counters that in order to truly master something, you have to put in around 10,000 hours of practice and hard work. That makes sense to me. He estimates that it takes about ten years to become proficient in something. Then again, to be super good, you have to have had luck. It’s not all about skill or motivation.
Maybe I’m a dreamer but I’ve always believe in the power of hard work and motivation. I’ve also always believed in the power of positive thinking, which according to Gladwell’s observations, counts for nothing.
That all being said, I’m still going to tell my kids that they can do anything they want. They just have to overcome their middle class status and the fact that they were born during the wrong years. Other than that, things will turn out just fine.