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Peter Mondics

Malcolm:

Congratulations on your wonderful study of intelligence, ambition and seemingly inescapable circumstances. Your chapter "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes" hit a particularly familiar chord. As a private instrument-rated pilot, flying regularly through the NY airspace, I can attest to the requirement of healthy assertive control that must be exercised by the pilot in his exchange with air traffic. They expect it. You get better handling when they detect it, which they always do. One recurring detail you might want to look into is the reference to the "glide scope". That is something I have never seen or heard before (that does not mean this is not correct). The common reference is to a "glide slope" - in effect, the hypotenuse of a triangle used to provide safe vertical three degree decent from a fixed point on the instrument approach.

seaver

Nature is not necessarily deterministic, as ground-breaking work on neuroplasticity is demonstrating. See http://seaver.typepad.com/expedition_shamatha/2007/03/nyt_article_tha.html , or the book Change Your Mind, Train Your Brain, or http://seaver.typepad.com/expedition_shamatha/2008/02/psychology-toda.html.

Matt Saunders

Got Outliers for Christmas - Woo-Hoo!

Frank Vasquez

My wife just gave me "Outliers" for Christmas. Just finished it and it was wonderful and fascinating. Interestingly enough, it reminded me of the "Connections" series(es) that James Burke used to do.

As I was getting into the lawyer chapters it made me wonder about the effect of Loving v. Virginia (1967 S.Ct decision striking laws that prevented interracial marriage) on the multiracial children born in that era. I don't think it is an accident that we are seeing a rise of successful middle age people of that make-up, first in sports (e.g., Tiger Woods, Hines Ward) and now in politics (Barrack Obama). I was wondering if you had ever explored this connection.

Was interested to learn at the end of the book that your make-up is similar, since I did not know anthing about you before I read it.

Kampy1

A quick check of all current National Hockey League team rosters shows that 103 of 395 Canadian-born players were born between January and March, only 26%. Am I missing something?

Also, what gives with all the typos in your book? I'm only on page 80 or so and I've already seen four or five. A writer of your stature must have "outlier" editors working on this stuff, no?

Enjoy your work.

Todd Willer

Gladwell wants so bad to have us loosen our tight grip on the "heroic legend" of the successful individual- the regular contrast with his argument throughout the book causing us to relax our hold little by little- that I can't help but think, "why are we so reluctant to give up the paradigm of the successful individual?"

Is it pride? Do we not want to admit that we can't go at it alone? Does "giving up" the notion that we can do it alone also cause us to give up feelings of superiority over others who can't rise out of their situations? Is is an obsession with celebrity?

Whatever the cause, it seems to me that it would profit us as individuals and as a collective to embrace and consider the fact that "sometimes we can't make it on our own" (as the U2 song says).

Ellen O'Leary

Mr. Gladwell,
I spent a glorious day voraciously devouring my copy of Outliers (a Christmas gift from my sister), including every word of the notes and references. I blew off countless post holiday chores and spent my time reading your archived articles, and viewing your keynote addresses on Youtube.com. Yes, I am an obsessive technical writer, editor, and former Secondary English teacher (earned a BS in journalism and Psychology, and an M.Ed.) so I can’t help but verify, quantify, and read your work critically, and still thoroughly enjoyed every word! I must note that your perspectives on cultural shaping would likely be attacked as stereotyping, were you not a minority. Your assertion that you are related to Colin Powell in Outliers supports the premise that as in Western culture, we still adhere to the inherent value in "breeding", and the "culture of honor" regardless of antecedents.

I will share a quote you may find inspirational, a reward for truly inspiring me to enter 2009 with a fresh perspective on more ideas than I can summarize in a blog, because you applied your “Ten thousand hours” rule as a science reporter!
Peter Drucker once wrote, “Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the "naturals," the ones who somehow know how to teach. The “naturals” to which he refers are those people who embrace the philosophy that learning is a life time endeavor, and who have the will to execute a “practice makes perfect” approach year after year. Thank you for honing your craft, and in doing so, teaching us the value of diversity, disciplined effort, humility, and the wisdom to look to history for lessons we have yet to learn.

Chuck

I received your book as a gift for Christmas and, as you can infer by today's date, could not put it down. I guess like most readers I was hoping to find some reason between the covers as to why I should be an Outlier. Sadly, being the youngest of two brothers born in 1945, being abandoned by a father at the age of two, dropping out of high school, and returning home after a stint in the Navy does not explain why I am a successful Software Engineer (two advanced engineering degrees), with a wonderful wife of 38 years, and two very smart college educated children. OK, so it sounds like I am bragging. Thanks for writing the book and allowing me to see things a little differently.

Greg Skidmore

Malcolm, your book made me wonder: What unique opportunities surround me? Furthermore, do I have enough natural talent and drive to take advantage of them? My next thought was it seems like a waist to ponder like this and I should just keep on with my passions. It's much easier to take advantage of opportunities that appear and almost impossible to make them happen.

steve spencer

FYI: the section on the couple in outliers who sell aprons for 10-15 cents makes no sense mathematically. you write that they spend $125 to purchase enough cloth to make 10 dozen aprons. based on the previous selling prices you mention their max revenue would be $18. was their life savings $12.50 or were they selling aprons at $1.50? one of those two changes would make the numbers work.

Vic Kley

Outliers attempts to persuade that ~10k hours focus on a subject is the key to "success". It then makes Bill Gates the poster 1950s generation baby claiming that his 10k hours of early computer access somehow explains his "success" at MicroSoft. As many if not most of those 1950s computer related boomers will attest MicroSoft has nothing to do with great computer expertise and everything to do with winning (at all costs) business expertise.

Gates did not spend 10k hours doing business so how is his success explained by the 10k Theory in Outliers? It is not!

I challenge the author or reader to name ONE THING Gates actually did or even conceived (one patent, one great piece of code), measured by his programming expertise he is a nebbish, a nobody a complete and utter failure. He has the technical creative capacity of a rock. Even his predictions are a joke.
Remember he had every opportunity to be a leader in the internet, and he just ignored it for years until someone else had shown the way and posted the code and methods.

Some of the same applies to Bill Joy whose "success" had little or nothing to do with his expertise. It had every thing to do with BSD Unix but anyone could have taken that and with the business expertise from Stanford and the 100 million in investment from Stanford Alums made a go out of Sun. Sun needed and indeed required BSD Unix (but not its creator). Linux did not even need the 100 megabucks to make essentially BSD 2.0 a success. Again Joy's 10k hours of experience as a programmer had NOTHING to do with Sun's success. As a programmer by Outliers apparent measure of success (amount of money earned/notoriety) Joy is a dismal failure.

Gates and Joy are talented men but their analysis and efforts of Outliers to create a "law" of success in which a critical component is the 10k hour "training" along with talent and timing fails to persuade. Tcubed doesn't cut it!

Microsoft did not come about because of Gates 10,000 hours of practice on a terminal, nor did Sun from Bill Joy's training. Both entities had more to do with business and marketing then product or programming and without those businesses both men would be nobodies, neither unsuccessful nor failures just completely unknown.


Don't despair Malcolm I still think you are on to something and maybe even a training time measure but not with the arguments made.


DonBerg

In regards to the assertion that the success of immigrant entrepreneurs runs counter to the thesis of Outliers:

their success is also socially constructed by a situation in which those who were bold enough to run the risks of immigrating have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded in a society that makes starting a business relatively easy. The inherent risks of immigration have already eliminated the faint of heart. It is also instructive that those who are typically portrayed as excelling at entrepreneurial enterprise come from certain cultures whereas other immigrants typically portrayed as cheap labor come from different cultures. Thus there is social construction on both ends of the immigrants journey.
--
Enjoy,

Don Berg

Site: www.Teach-Kids-Attitude-1st.com
Blog: blog.Attitutor.com

Bill Brown

Outliers made our list of the "Nine Books of 2008 to Prepare You to Change the World in 2009." See the others at http://frombrowntogreen.blogspot.com/2008/12/nine-books-of-2008-to-prepare-you-to.html

David Neumann

Thanks for the thought provoking book. I was struck by the 'Langan vs Oppenheimer' comparison, where Oppenheimer, despite trying to poison his tutor while working on his Ph.D., becomes one of the most famed scientists of our time. However, Langan-- despite his genius and ability to perform academically-- was unable to get a college degree or publish a scholarly paper. I believe that emotional intelligence and one's ability to "customize" their environment is the absolutely correct interpretation this difference. I would suggest that Mr. Gladwell seek out the work of Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania on Learned Optimism -- his work suggests how one can learn to be better at controlling or influencing their environment. Dr. Seligman's work has had a major influence in psychology for the last 40 years. I feel badly for Mr. Langon, and Professor Seligman has some very good ideas about how to help people take more control of their world.

FreakFlag

I just finished reading Outliers, I really enoyed it. I thought it was really insightful.

I read Blink awhile ago and was not a fan. Now that I read Outliers I'm goiing to revisit Blink and see if I can get anything out of it that I didn't the first time I read it.

Great job.

alicia banks

wow

i love your work!

peace
alicia banks
OUTLOOK
http://aliciabanks.blogspot.com

Hillary

Sssssshhhhh. I implement your strategies as a former provider and a current cancer patient. If you want to see your ideas in action, www.baldiesblog.blogspot.com If you want more information, email.

james Tucker

I think our fate is about 75 percent determined by genetics (other 25 percent is cultural/parenting).
No amount of free will or training will matter that much or make a difference, because we were just not programmed from birth to do it. Example: I can go out and shoot 500 free throws every day, play basketball at the Y, or do weight-training, but I will not be Lebron James. I won't grow to be 6-9" or weigh 230 pounds and be able to hit my head on a 10-foot rim. I'm just not programmed that way.

No matter how hard you try, you're not going to be Bill Gates or the young guy who started Facebook. You are what you are from what you are born with and from where you grew up and what influence parents and other people have had on you. It's taking me a while to realize this, because I am very a optimistic person, and I truly believe everyone has potential to be do great things in life, but sometimes there is just not enough time and the energy to do it all.

Jim

Sir,

I saw your Charlie Rose appearance right before Xmas and went out the next day to buy copies of Outliers for myself and a bunch of colleagues. I haven't gotten to the book yet, it's in a bag waiting for a planned trip to Aruba in a couple of weeks and I'm very much looking forward to it, but after the Rose appearance and after reading a little bit about the book online I've been wondering about something.

Obviously you use the Beatles and particularly the time they put in in Hamburg as one of your big examples in Outliers. Here's the question - where does Pete Best, and what happened to him, fit with your broader theory? He was there with the others (right place, right time), he put in his 10,000 hours up there on that stage right alongside John, Paul and George, and ultimately when they got to the moment of truth in front of George Martin he was found to be not good enough and was dismissed.

When I got the book I went immediately to the index to see how you confronted this in the text and found only one reference to Best, in which he's quoted talking about how much time they put in onstage during those Hamburg trips.

So how does one explain the curious case of Pete Best, against the broader theories and conclusions of Outliers?

Sanjay Mehta

Hi,
I enjoyed listening to Outliers. I was inspired enough to write my own review, and also put in a personal example of the kind that were in the book. My review: http://rdfan.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/outliers-malcolm-gladwell-review/

white and black noise

I really liked Outliers. Some of the ideas I do not agree, but the intensity of energy written made the reading very exciting.

Dan McCarthy

Malcolm -
Congratulations, Great Leadership has listed your book, Outliers, as one of the Best Leadership and Management Books of 2008!

Matt Lyon

malcolm: I liked Outliers, but I seriously question the link of the 10,000-hour rule to The Beatles success. Songwriting cannot be correlated directly with hours on stage. Great performances can be linked to practice, but the The Beatles are not historically a great live group.

Dave Richards


Re: your Dec 17 reply to Brooks

You stated:

"2. Brooks suggests that Outliers represents a kind of social determinism. But that's an odd comment to make in the context of a column championing the role of nature over nurture. It's only nature that is unchangable and deterministic. Nurture, by definition, isn't. And the last half of Outliers is devoted to showing that when we confront our cultural legacies--whether it's in the cockpit or the classroom--we can make a big difference in how well we do our jobs."

While I greatly admire your book, I don’t think you played fair with Brooks or the scientific community when you said that nurture is, by definition, changeable.

A. Chapters 3 and 4 of Outliers (devoted to the profound inability of Christopher Langan to rise above his horrific upbringing and take advantage of his extraordinary IQ) argue - quite convincingly - the opposite. The Terman study, examined in the same chapters, also proves the opposite, as you repeatedly note.

B. And you fudged by saying that the last half of your book is devoted to showing that when we confront our cultural legacies we can make a big difference. Brooks was talking about the individual and you moved the argument to the culture and choose not to meet his argument (I understand why, in light of Chapters 3 and 4). Not fair.

Further, if you want to go there, cultures (“big-N” nurtures) don’t change. Jews and Arabs will still hate each other in 500 years, and Japanese will still be enemies of Russians in 500 years. If you doubt that, look at the last 500 years in each case.

Even if cultures combine and re-emerge in slightly different form, that adds nothing to the ability of the individual within a culture to change (i.e., Langan and Terman’s C group), just as a life insurance company’s death projections cannot tell us of the date of our own deaths.

C. Don’t forget that when all is said and done, there is a gene or a silenced gene responsible for every action we take. We cannot get off the DNA bus - we are part of the bus. It’s a logical impossibility. Yes, epigenetics has shown that the environment causes genes to be expressed or silenced in some circumstances - but the operative word in that sentence is genes.

s

Mr. Gladwell:

The archetypes -- New York lawyers, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Asian students, Italian culture, and academia -- do you think they were perhaps a bit trite?

As the son of Jamaican parents, who immigrated to Canada, where I was born, and, as a U.S. lawyer and former reader of The New Yorker who never read your previous two books, my two cents is worth only that.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

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