Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Book Review


When I consider what to review it generally happens in two ways:I look at my bookshelf and I look for something that impacts me immediately.  This book qualifies for both.  I even went so far as to stay up until 5am one morning to watch Malcolm Gladwell on CSpan give a speech about his incredible book, Outliers.  Simply put Outliers are people who through stand out from the crowd because of a talent.  It's a great system for figuring out where you are in whatever it is you like or even more importantly how to achieve (and understand others achievement).  The magic number is 10,000 hours of practice that purposefully increase sin complexity.  With just that information you can understand Bill Gates, Raymond Federman, Nina Simone, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Toni Morrison, Bill Cosby, Nikolai Tesla, Carlene Hatcher Polite, Oprah Winfrey, Ervin Laszlo and a host of others.  We look at these people as having a genius or a superior talent but we rarely consider how that talent got nurtured, developed and blossomed to what we see today.

In undergraduate college I really started getting published around the country.  For four years I was a Teacher's Asst. to three professor's, all three focusing heavily on creative writing, I took close to 80 credits of just writing classes (prose, journalism, poetry even playwriting), I was often weekly in not just the campus newspaper but the campus magazine, chapbooks and even the graduate school literary magazine.  Professors began recommending me to publishers and magazines around the country.  I even had the surprising pleasure of going into a bookstore, picking up an interesting looking magazine and finding one of my short stories in it.  Friends and classmates assumed I had some sort of dark genius that was being reaped upon the university but in fact since the age of 12 I'd been writing diligently.  For about 10 years time I'd written comic book scripts and manuscripts and poems and essays so that by the time I got to college at 21, I'd had 10 years of writing experience, my heaviest work being being done with Denise Donnelly, Debbie Freeman and Dr. William Hunter at John Jay High School.  What appeared to be an amazing well spring was in fact my arriving at college with 10,000+ hours of writing experience under my belt.  By the time I arrived at the university I was ready for high level instruction in writing because I'd mastered the basic form but to the other students who were just beginning their 10,000+ journey (if they were going to stick to it at all), I seemed far ahead.  I often felt excluded from the students' level of ability and more comfortable with the teachers because I had gathered so much more experience.  Outliers was finally able to quantify for me why.

Now transfer this algorithm to another skill, any skill, that might be achieved in college.  Working 40 hours a week is approximately 2000 hours a year.  College, full time study, is the equivalent of working full time for 4 to 5 years.  Boom!  10,000 hours.  Wait for it---now graduate school is where one achieves their "Master's" degree because you've graduate from being a novice/intermediate to now a level of mastery.  Outliers has wonderful case by case outlines of people who've attained mastery and an examination of how and why, even down to examining the preponderance of Jewish doctors and lawyers and how that can be traced back to family origin and 10,000 hours.  Use this book to examine yourself or understand how to fill in the blocks of your own study.

Remember mastery is achieved by a 6 Step Process (outlined in Mastery by Robert Greene---I'll be posting it's review as soon as it comes out in November):

1. Discover your calling: the life's task
2. Submit to reality: the ideal apprenticeship
3. Absorb the master's power: the mentor dynamic
4. See people as they are: social intelligence
5. Awaken the dimensional mind: the creative-active
6. Fuse the intuitive with the rational: mastery

Thank you!
Kyle Phoenix
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