Wednesday, March 17, 2010

OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell

We all know that being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with success. Malcolm Gladwell gives us plenty of examples, the first of which is about being born in the right month if you aspire to professional hockey in Canada. He also stresses the importance of ambition, hard work, and the influences that shape our lives. The most disturbing section has to do with cultural influences and the devastating airline tragedies that occurred partly because of a co-pilot who was overly deferential to the captain and to air traffic controllers. The author often reminds us that it's not necessary to be exceedingly smart to be successful; it's just necessary to be smart enough. He gives the example of a man whose IQ is in the 190s but didn’t finish college because of his inability to negotiate a class schedule that would allow him to continue. In contrast, another man attempted to murder a professor and still went on to become immensely successful. Near the end, he takes a linguistic approach to explaining one of the reasons Asians excel at math. I had never really considered how the English language makes arithmetic more difficult than it needs to be. He also presents a strong case for year-round school.

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