Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Outliers

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, in which he tries to explain what makes some people uncommonly successful while others (who are every bit as intelligent or talented) are not as successful.

To do this, he examined some cases of people he terms outliers: men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. Gladwell challenges the notion that the “best and brightest” are the ones that succeed. He says, “We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth.” He contends that there is always more to a success story than immediately meets the eye, and he skillfully weaves together fascinating stories and statistics to demonstrate his point.

Gladwell’s view is that success is rarely only a product of ability and motivation. While those are indeed factors, he maintains that success comes to those who 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.” In other words, success is a product of ability, motivation, opportunity, environment, circumstances, cultural legacies, and hard work.

As Christians, we would add another ingredient to Gladwell’s recipe for success: the providence of God. Ultimately, it is God who raises up some and not others. (We see this very clearly in the lives of such Biblical characters as Joseph and Esther.) As Gladwell would discuss how something like your cultural legacy can shape the way you think, I found myself marveling at the God who orchestrates all those seemingly insignificant details to weave together our lives and accomplish His purposes.

While this is a secular book, it is still a good read. The book is well-written, and the stories and examples Gladwell uses to illustrate his points are interesting. It probably won't change your life, but it will give you some food for thought.

THE VERDICT: A Good, Light Read

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