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.