I finally finished reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. Gladwell was one of the keynote speakers at a Salesforce conference I attended last year and he spoke about the book. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get through the book. I tend to use my commute as my reading time, but lately I have been too tired and I fall asleep to stay awake I listen to my iPod or read feeds on my Blackberry. A habit I don’t like getting into, it really is the only time I make to read. Having service in the underground now, as much as I love it, it is not helping.
Anyway, I enjoyed the book. It is written in the same style as Tipping Point and Blink, very easy read that shouldn’t take long for anyone to get through. The main message I got from the book is that money = success. Obviously it is not that easy, but essentially that is what it came down to for me, well with a little luck thrown in too.
Gladwell takes each section of the book to talk about various success stories. The face value of the success story seems simple, however he dives into the details and breaks it all out. The commonality between the stories is opportunity, dedication, and chance.
Start with chance. Each success story has some chance involved, mostly centered around opportunities that happen at a certain period of time and the person being of the ideal age to take advantage of it. Circumstances that present some luck to the person on the receiving end. For example, had Bill Gate’s been born say 50 years earlier would he be one of the richest men alive. Likely not, as he was born at the opportune time to become a computer whiz.
Dedication, Gladwell goes on to show that the great success stories have a lot of time into their trade before they become successful. I believe the optimal number of hours is 10,000. With that kind of time into anything you have to assume the person is dedicated.
Opportunity, is just that. Opportunities that are presented due the circumstances of your life. The opportunity to be exposed to new things, to learn from new experiences, and ultimately to become successful due to the fact you had a particular opportunity. While all these factors stand a better chance, this one in particular is the key to why I say money = success. A lot of it really is time, but in today’s world time IS money.
In order to present your children with the opportunity to succeed, they need to be exposed to a lot of situations and opportunities. The ability to this comes at a cost, time and money. Getting your children to before and after school activities requires the cost of having a non-working parent in the household or a nanny around to assist. Being able to keep your child’s education enriched over the summer requires the cost of expensive camps. Allowing time for children to put in 10,000 hours of dedication to anything again requires the cost of a parent/nanny to get them to additional classes to accomplish this. And someone to do their chores, so they can concentrate on the activity at hand. On and on.
They all build on each other with money being the anchor; opportunity is hard to come by without a large output of money, the time for dedication requires the opportunity, and making the most of the chances before requires you can move full steam ahead with experience gained through opportunity and dedication. Obviously I am simplifying a lot here, but that is how it boiled down to me.
There are always the debates about if our children are over scheduled or not. I tend to sit on the side of the fence that kids need downtime and all the scheduled activities are overkill. I’ve changed my view a lot since reading this book and definitely see the value in it now. This fact is actually troubling me, it adds to the parent guilt since we do not have a non-working parent nor the money to invest in a nanny. Like it or not, the rich keep getting richer.
I recommend reading it, see what you get out of it.