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September 29, 2009

The One {everyone is talking about}

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown)

Why do some people succeed far more than others?

While conventional wisdom points to an individual’s raw talent, intelligence, and ambition, author Malcolm Gladwell proposes an alternate theory. If we really want to understand how outliers—or superachievers—thrive, Gladwell says, we need to take a good look around them. At their family and cultural background. At where and even when they were born.

“It’s not the brightest who succeed,” Gladwell writes. “Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

Using research, case studies, and good, old-fashioned storytelling, Gladwell dissects a variety of success stories, from Bill Gates to the Beatles. So Gates’s genius ensured he outshined thousands of computer geeks to create the Windows operating system? Take a closer look and you’ll find that his high school was one of very few to have a computer club, and that through a “lucky” break, he was able to use University of Washington computers on a nearly unlimited basis.

Believe pro hockey player success rests on raw talent alone? Not so, says Gladwell. Roughly 40 percent are born during the first three months of the year. Considering the cutoff date for many youth hockey leagues is January 1, kids with early birthdays are older, bigger, and stronger than kids born in the last months of the year. The result is that they receive the best coaching and the most practice time. And excel because of it.


Despite its research-driven subject matter, Outliers is a surprisingly easy and entertaining read. Gladwell’s liberal use of stories not only supports his points but keeps them from feeling dry and academic.

At times, however, Gladwell’s reasoning falters. Exploring sociologist Robert Merton’s “Matthew Effect,” he quotes Matthew 25:29: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (KJV).

Taking the Scripture out of context, Merton—and Gladwell—interpret it to mean that those who are successful will be given opportunities that lead to further success, such as those bigger hockey players getting better coaching. But reading the passage in the context of the parable of the talents, it’s plain to see Jesus was speaking about how we as Christ-followers should make use of our gifts, rather than indicating that further opportunities will arise from them.

Still, the concepts in Outliers are worthy of discussion in light of our faith. If, as Gladwell proposes, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be successful, what implications could that hold for prayer? Reading Scripture? What gifts has God given us and how can we best make use of them? And perhaps most important, how can we as a community of believers positively—or negatively—affect the “success” of our Christian brothers and sisters?


It is amazing to see the faith of nonbelievers when it comes to success and achievement. They have faith and don't even realize it. On the other hand, we as believers KNOW who our source is and who is in control. If only we would apply faith the size of a mustard seed we could not only tremendously impact our own lives but bless the lives of others through prayer. Great Post!

What indeed does "success" look like for Christians? Something not mentioned in the article is perhaps how focused those "outliers" were on what they believed as the "purpose" of their existence. So, what is the purpose of our existence as Christians? If we can truthfully answer this question and walk the talk by living a Christ-centered life, we will be "successfully" transformed into His likeness by God's grace. If we are to follow the secular term centered here, the only "success" we are to crave for is the death of our self-centered worldly selves, so the life of God could flow into us freely and abundantly.

We as christians should know who our standard is, in this case Christ Jesus! If we loose this focus, we are measuring ourselves like the world does for us,and thus loosing the bait. It is important to understand that our success is not measured in terms of money,or building...,but on how well we have witnessed our Lord, Jesus Christ to others!

read the book. was quite intrigued. agree that his use of the verse is suspect but he highlights something the BIble does talk about: sheer hard diligence - something we have gone really soft on today. net outcome: i assess my kids' abilities and make them work hard because their gifts, dveloped and honed are meant to make a difference in our world!! let's get practical. world is dying and desperate (a non-american)

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