Have you ever read a biography of a successful person where his or her success is attributed to pure dumb luck? Probably not. Rather, when it comes to success stories, we like to think that people have earned their success through talent and hard work. We tend to ignore so many other factors that influence a person's success, and most of them lie beyond that person's control. When Jeb Bush ran for the governorship of Florida, he called himself a self-made man. This was absolutely ridiculous. Just in his immediate family, he had two American presidents and a senator. He was an outlier with extraordinary achievements, but it was mainly his background that helped him to achieve success. We usually place such high value on self-made achievements that we often fully ignore other factors. In this book called Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wants to show us that to achieve great success, you need more than just talent and hard work and more often than not when people achieve great success, its mainly because of the factors that lie beyond their control. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that we can learn from extraordinary successful people.
The key lesson #1: Talent is good only up to a point.
Even though the natural qualities are important for success, but they don't reflect the whole truth. For example, being seven feet tall doesn't guarantee that you will become a World-Class basketball player, or having a super IQ doesn't automatically mean that you will win a Nobel Prize. Why is this? Qualities that foster success, like height in basketball, have a threshold and after passing a certain height, some extra couple of inches won’t make that much of a difference for a basketball player. The same is true basically anywhere else. For example, there is a policy called Affirmative Action, which allows for law schools to lower the entry requirements for some racial minorities. These students tend to perform slightly worse than white students. But when they were examined after graduation, there was not that much difference between their performance. The minority students have similar salaries and make as many contributions to the legal work as their white classmates. Just as height in basketball that only matters up to a point, once you reach the talent threshold, a little increase in your abilities won't matter that much and other things start to play a bigger role. Things like social skills, connections, or even a lucky break.
The key lesson #2: Mastery demands 10,000 hours of practice
You may think talent is the only thing needed to succeed, but it turns out hard work is more important than talent. Bill Gates spent a lot of time learning computer programming. The Beatles spent a lot of time on stage. Even though they were very talented individuals, it was the practice that made them truly world-class. To become really good at something, studies show that you need to spend around 10,000 hours practicing it. But the thing is that not everyone has the opportunity to spend this much time practicing something. First of all, you need to start early in life and your family should have the resources to support you. Otherwise, how are you going to become a world-class violinist when you have to spend 40 hours of a week working on something else just to make a living? Depending on what you want to do, you might also need to access some expensive equipment. If you are lucky, like Bill Gates or the Beatles, you will have all these things, but so many people don't. And as a result, they don't have the opportunity to become very successful in their chosen field.
Key lesson #3: Our culture greatly affects what we achieve in life.
You probably have heard that Asians are good at math. Some might disagree with this, but several aspects of Eastern culture do, in fact, make students better at math. Rice, which is one of the main foods in the Asian diet is one such factor. Farming rice needs an intense work ethic and is much harder than forming Western crops, and it usually offers a clear relationship between effort and reward. As a result, a culture of hard work developed. One famous Asian saying is “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.” Now, what does this have to do with math? Like rice farming, math is hard and you might need to spend an hour just to solve a problem. Research has shown that students in Western countries give up on math problems far sooner than students in Eastern countries do. So, yes, Asians are generally good at math. It's part of their cultural legacy. People with ancestors who worked in rice paddies tend to inherit an attitude toward hard work that not only can help them with learning math but also attracts more success in their lives.
So to summarize, no one who becomes an extraordinarily successful outlier is an island, and being an outlier is the result of an often unlikely series of opportunities, lucky breaks, and occurrences that combine to create the precise conditions that allow such achievement.
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