A book review by Tim Brunson, DCH
During this period of economic crises and turbulence - while many Americans and others throughout the world are focusing on survival - Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, is a welcome respite. In this refreshing volume he presents numerous anecdotes which weave an enlightening, paradigm-breaking view of why some people are successful and others are not.
His first insight is that too often, successful people are merely lucky. They are born in the "right" families, at the right historical era, or even the right time of year. For instance, he mentions that Canadian children born during certain months have a higher probability of becoming professional hockey players. He attributes this more so to the cut off dates for entry into hockey programs during their childhood years, rather than stating that talent alone determines who will progress.
Another myth that he tackles is the linking of higher intelligence levels to success. Indeed, while elevated IQ's may give some advantages over others, luck again comes to play. For instance, a teen with a genius-level IQ too often has a handicap if they fail to get into at least an "adequate" university.
Conversely, all of Gladwell's revelations are not entirely gloomy and fatalistic. He recognizes the value of creativity, hard work, and nurturing. He eloquently illustrates that creativity rather than attendance at the "best" universities is the major factor in Nobel Prize recognition. Using stories about the Eastern European Jews who immigrated to what is known as the Garment District in New York City, he shows us that determination can not only improve the lot of one generation, but also may propel the next generation as well. Then by using stories about Bill Gates - the Microsoft founder - and the Beatles, he proposes that 10,000 hours of practice seems to be a requirement of success. An ability (or intelligence) that is not nurtured seems to waste away and prevent the possibility of future greatness.
So, even though Gladwell says that luck is important, if opportunities are not recognized, then the potential is for naught. But, when one discovers the possibilities inherent in any situation – for every environment is pregnant with possibilities – then the element of chance is overshadowed by uncovered prospects. Add to this that by middle age most of us probably have multiple skills – in which we have paid our "10,000 hour" dues – that when applied judiciously to newly discovered openings, can cause success to become more a probability and less a dream.
As a clinician or a healer, people come to you to resolve some type issue. As the Dalai Lama says, "Everyone is seeking happiness." Clients and patients come to us because they seek to end one situation and move toward another. You may wish to phrase this as moving from "suffering" toward "happiness". Too often their "victim mentality" causes them to feel despair. Although it is not a clinical work, Gladwell's latest book helps us take another look at what it means to achieve, or to become successful. Yes, where we are at the moment may seem to define our current situation. However, he shows us that hard work, practice, and nurturing can redefine our limits and help us (and those who seek our professional help) to move to a more desired future.