February 13, 2011


OutliersOutliers by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When reading this book the classic nature versus nurture discussion kept playing in my head. Throughout the book for those that become hugely successful (the outliers) there are clearly elements of nature at play (you need to be good enough) but overall nurture clearly plays a bigger role in the authors view. I'm lumping being in the right place at the right time (aka luck) under nurture since that seems to be a common theme especially when it comes to when you were born. The other clear theme I found was that outliers don't just happen, there is a clear lineage of accumulative advantage at work. That for me was particularly telling in the chapter that touched on the Baltimore students and the California Achievement Test. Less advantaged students showed similar gains those more more advantaged during the school year but lost that gain during the summer. Overall I found the pacing and presentation of the book to be uneven but still demonstrating the key theory well, if not offering any counter examples.

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Some notes I took while reading:

10: ... thinking about health in terms of community.
25: ... skewed age distributions exist whenever three things happen: selection, streaming, and differentiated experience.
30: Success is the result of what sociologists like to call "accumulative advantage."
38: Achievement is talent plus preparation.
65: ... old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you missed it. Ideally, you want to be twenty or twenty-one, ...
80: ... only has to be [good] enough ...
101: ... practical intelligence includes things like "knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect."
104: ... "concerted cultivation." It's an attempt to actively "foster and assess a child's talents, opinion and skills." ... "accomplishment of natural growth." They see as their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own.
149: ... autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
166-167: ... "culture of honor." ... he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak.
194: We mitigate when we're being polite, or when we're ashamed or embarrassed, or when we're being deferential to authority.
204: ... "Power Distance Index" (PDI).
246: Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard ...

Tags: books life success