My Take on “Outliers”

I recently finished another book by one of my favorite authors: Malcolm Gladwell. The book is a compilation of success stories for various individuals as well as groups of people. As is the case with Gladwell’s books, he tends to present an argument and then go forward proving his argument with the use of statistics and various studies. It is always fascinating to statistically see why things are the way they are, and Gladwell does a great job digging up relevant statistics.

In his most recent book, Outliers, he reveals the formula for success. Contrary to what most people believe, that success is a product of hard work and persistence, Gladwell presents the argument that our success is a product of the environment we are a part of and that it has very little to do with our own personal choices. The reactions of many people after reading this book is one of depressed realization. They feel that they have no say in whether they will be successful or not because of what the stats in Gladwell’s book iterates.

Although his book does seem to deflate those who have worked hard all their lives in the hopes of being successful, I think it also teaches us the value of making the most of the opportunities we are given. In the book Gladwell presents the birthdates of various NFL hockey players, noting that the vast majority of players were born in January, or the earliest months of the year. The reason for this, he found, was because when these players were younger, they were able to make the cut for development camps open to those of a certain age. So for those players who were born on January 1 for example, they will be getting much more experience and tutelage by attending these camps. For the players born just one day before, on Dec. 31, they will not have that same opportunity to attend these development camps. This trend compounds on itself throughout the players life resulting in the player born Jan. 1 amassing much more experience and tutelage than a player born on Dec. 31.

The reason the player born in January is so much better is because he had opportunities for growth thrown at him his whole life, and the December baby has not had these same opportunities. I think if both these players were given the knowledge from this book at a younger age, both could have become professionals and done well in their field. The January player would have a much easier job finding opportunities, but the December player would now know what he has to do to become as successful as the January player, hunt down opportunities of his own.

This is the argument that I am making to those who view this book as a depressing intellectual argument that one can not become successful based on their hard work alone. I argue that although you may have been born at a less opportunistic time, there are still alternative opportunities out there and it is our responsibility to be proactive and to find those opportunities for growth.

If you read this book and feel similarly depressed like the multitudes, I hope that you would ponder what I’ve said here and take hold of the opportunities that life gives you, but also actively search for opportunities and situations you can put yourself into to ultimately become the successful person you strive to be.


No Map Needed

Maps are useful. They can take you to some incredible places where you’ll see incredible things. Maps give you security. If you have a map, you are likely to not get lost. The thing with maps, though, is that they give you tunnel vision and sometimes that can limit the opportunities to explore.

I’d like to think of my blog as one with no map. I don’t plan on writing about any one thing in particular. Having no “map” lets me be free to write about whatever’s on my mind, to explore. I plan on writing about ideas I have, books I’ve read, and life experiences I’ve been apart of or are currently a part of. I hope that I can express myself well enough that whoever is reading will be able to understand more about me, my interests, my world view, and what makes me tick.

I’m not trying to get a large following on this blog, but if people DO read what I write, I would love to hear what you guys think of my musings. I think WordPress is a great opportunity to learn from a community of like-minded people, and that potential is exciting to me! So if you’re reading this and you want to give me some tips on maintaining a blog, or tell me that my idea’s are awful, or that you enjoyed reading my stuff, let me know!

Sub-cultural Marketing

This is an idea I came up with today:

Do you remember those videos on YouTube, a series of videos premised as Sh*t People Say? There’s a specific video called “Stereotypes: Pickup Basketball”, that pokes fun at the many personalities involved at a game of pick-up basketball. An example from the video is “Mr. My Bad” who constantly says “my bad”, or “my fault” when he screws up. People outside of the subculture of pick-up basketball won’t understand the humor but people all over the country that are part of that sub-culture will understand the humor and feel a connection with the brand you are trying to promote. Companies can use that concept by incorporating these “inside jokes” into their marketing strategy. If done correctly, I think it would resonate with the market and boost sales.

Not a world-altering idea, but I wanted to share. If you’ve seen or heard of this concept in the real world, I want to hear about it!

If you havn’t seen the video and are curious, here is the link:

Poking the Box

“Poking doesn’t mean right. It means action.”

I recently finished a book by Seth Godin called Poke the Box. The book was a call to action, daring people to get over their fears of actually starting something.

I have wanted to start a blog for some time now, but have had an irrational fear that I don’t have what it takes to update and maintain a blog that people will want to read. Godin argues that we don’t always have to succeed with our ideas or our initiatives, we just need to put them out them, to ship them. In the book he used the analogy of a dandelion and how it spreads its seeds. He articulates the concept better than I would be able to, so here is an excerpt: “A single dandelion may produce 2,000 seeds per year, indiscriminately firing them off into the sky at the slightest breeze, without any care for where the seeds are heading and whether they’ll get a hospitable reception when they touch down. And indeed most of those thousands of seeds will likely fall on hard, unyielding pavement, there to lie fallow and unconsummated, a failure in the genetic race to survive and copy. But the disposition of each seeds isn’t the most important thing from a dandelions point of view. The important thing is that every spring, every crack in every pavement is filled with dandelions.”

I read that as a challenge to let my ideas be heard, overcome my fear of whether or not my ideas or my projects will be successful. If my pursuits succeed I’ll be happy, and if they fail, I can learn what did not work and apply the lessons learned to my next project or idea. Taking tangible action is what is most important, so here I am.

Poking the proverbial “box” is an action that is out of your comfort zone, asking questions you may be afraid of asking, starting things you may be afraid to start, putting yourself “out there” in one way or another and watching what happens.

Here’s to getting out of my comfort zone, taking that first step and poking the box.