"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Outliers:The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers was our book club selection for the month of May.

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell challenges the idea of the self-made man.  He claims that superstars don't succeed merely by hard work and determination, but rather "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot."

Let's be honest.  The main question in the back of my mind as I read this book was "What are my chances of becoming an outlier (aka superstar) in my chosen field of writing?"  Here are the advantages and disadvantages that I face, according to Mr. Gladwell.

My birthday is in early February (+).  I've loved writing all my life, and I have the poetry, journals, essays, and creative writing class grades to prove it.  I believe that over the years of my life, I have probably racked up over 10,000 hours of writing practice (+).  My IQ is above the threshold for "genius," but not necessarily off the charts (+).  I don't have the work ethic of a rice farmer (-).  I come from a poor background (-).  I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation (-).  And finally, we are probably looking at a very consequential change in the way literature is published and distributed, and I am in a position to take advantage of that change (+).  Conclusion?  Meh.  Maybe.

One thing that I wish he would have explored more is the effect of high individualism in American culture.  Perhaps he avoided that discussion on purpose.  If he were to find that Americans were actually using hard work and determination to rise above their beginnings, then that might throw a wrench in his theories.  And after all, we don't all necessarily aspire to become outliers, do we?  I don't need to be a superstar.  I'll settle for becoming a very successful author.  I'm determined to do so, and I plan on working very hard to achieve it.


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