Book Review: The Outliers

... Aaaaand I'm back! My website's up and running again. Whew! So, a couple of weeks ago, while my boyfriend and I were wending our way through the exciting mountains of West Virginia on our way to TriCon, we decided to listen to the audiobook version of The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

In the book, Gladwell analyzes the path to success for different people in different professions. What makes certain hockey players better than others? How did Steve Jobs and Bill Gates manage to skyrocket to personal computer stardom within the same timeframe? What kinds of work ethics are passed along through different immigrant ethnic groups?

At first I thought this would be a boring assembly of "what makes successful people super awesome that I could never aspire to". Birthright, opportunity, ingrained talent. Ho hum.

When I was in roller derby, I grappled with the issue of natural born vs. hardworking athlete. I figured that there were just some people who were born knowing how to skate and the best way to hit people. No matter how hard I tried, that would always be out of my reach. I didn't have it, and others clearly did.

Luckily, Gladwell wasn't satisfied with the explanation of what some had and others didn't. And upon deeper analysis, he discovered something that I find fascinating - all of the successful people he researched had to WORK at what they accomplished. Even those who were considered to have been born with something the rest of us weren't - an eye, an ear, a brain function - those same people could never rest back on their elbows and rely on their "natural" talents to get them through. In every single case, they had to work harder than everyone else in order to achieve their level of higher greatness. The talented cello player practiced more than the next highest talented cello players. The gifted athlete trained harder and longer than the other athletes. The phenomenally successful band practiced together every night in dive bars in Germany.

In each case, even though opportunity, place, year, and hell, even the MONTH you were born in could play an important part in how skilled you became at a given thing - it still had to be cultivated through hard work and years of practice.

And since I myself am a lifelong Hufflepuff, currently putting in the hours to try to achieve my dream of making comics for a living ... I find this encouraging.

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