Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success

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This was my first Gladwell book and won’t be my last.  I had heard that he has a very approachable writing style that tackles research and statistics based premises adroitly and he didn’t disappoint.  The premise he puts forward here is simple, profound, and important.  He basically sets out to prove to us that no real element of success is self-driven and even the greatest success “outliers” are indeed products of their environment.  This is a casuality subscribing cynics dream come true but doesn’t read like one.

In a fairly small package, he very clearly shows some startling corollaries between when groups of athletes were born and their career potential.  He delves into the makings of computer giants like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  He points out the biggest single reason The Beatles became “bigger than Jesus” (*1).  This is all in his signature style and leaves you wondering how you could ever see success any other way but his.

Don’t worry it isn’t a demotivating revelation as he points out some ways how a better understanding of success can help us generate it and foster it proactively.  Tip number one is do not push your kids ahead a year in school – if they are of that on the fence age – unless you plan to make up the difference with a rigorous summer learning routine!  There are many more insights for parents of athletes and students and even geniuses.  For my part, I’ve finally given up the childhood hope to be the next Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, or Mario Lemieux and that is incredibly liberating.

 

I wonder though, is it too late to be the next Malcolm Gladwell?

*1 – In an ode to Gladwell (*2), I’ll take a footnote here to point out that it bothers me how misrepresented this off the cuff remark of Lennon’s is when quoted as I have done here.  It’s a shame because Lennon was an insightful guy at times and this quote always takes that and makes him look like an arrogant git.  Mind you, I’m not saying he wasn’t at least a little arrogant…
*2 – He does have a distracting habit of writing a book-within-a-book via very lengthy footnotes that take his asides to up to half the page height, while interesting they are excessive.

What are your theories on deja vu?

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As a teenager I had a theory that Time has no bearing on us after we die, and so Deja Vu is our spirits revisiting important moments in our lives. Perhaps this all happens in the "life flashing before your eyes" moments and each flash is a stop and moment of past Deja Vu.
So at the time I used to take especial notice of my situation and surroundings and conversation during Deja Vu and try to savor it.
Maybe these critical moments were critical mistakes and God provides us one last chance to correct our lives at death? Look for the novel based on this next year.

Today what are my theories? Gosh I don’t know. Maybe it is simply that it is a common situation that you have encountered before and your brain gets tricked and misfires and writes memory in the same place it is reading it and so you feel like you know what’s coming, like listening to a reverse echo sound effect – you can’t quite make it out but when it arrives it sounds like it was always coming.

I just made that one up for you HeyLady33, that’s how I roll.

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What is the most annoying thing that someone could do to you?

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Shatter my ego in front of everyone I know and love. Actually that’s a bit past annoying and on into terrifying.
Let’s go with constantly doubt and second guess everything I say and play Devil’s Advocate whenever I complain about something.

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So why the "screen name"? What does it mean?

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Oathbreaker, who are you, really?

I once wrote a rather exhaustive, yet tantalizingly light retrospective on my various "screen names" and what they meant to me. You can find it here: http://humanfailmachine.blogspot.com/2009/10/ice-cream-assassin.html

I’m curious if my answer now changes from then. Oathbreaker to me is a character, he is a mode of being that I can fall into for online games and those rare moments when defining yourself in egoic terms is useful. Oathbreaker is a person who does right, by his reckoning, with or against the rules of society. He is haunted by a past shame that is also that which allows him to follow his contrary course. I see him as a free man in an age of thralls and lords.

Of course, when ti comes to twitter and other things, it’s just a convenient way to hide my real name from the intertubes and still have a recognizable moniker for those who know me.

Read my other blog post for a FULL accounting of the history of my "screen names" and other aggrandized back stories.

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What hobbies, sports, or other leisure time activities do you enjoy most?

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When I was a teenager in (I don’t recall exact years so this is a guess) Gr. 9 and 10 (maybe) my friends and I used to do two things. Before school, at lunch, and after school we would bat some tennis balls around the dilapidated tennis courts. We were terrible and we spent as much time hacking through the brambles and bushes on the other side of the fence as we did actually volleying, but it was loads of fun. The other thing we used to do, and we did it most of our childhood together to various amounts (once I moved to the same neighbourhood as them I got to do it a lot more) was play street hockey. Throughout University and while working up in Orillia I joined rec league floor hockey teams and killed myself pounding floorboards and being generally terrible at it, but I haven’t played it since. Partly because Ice Hockey is much more popular and I never learned to skate growing up on the West Coast (no natural ice might have contributed) and partly because of low faith in my physical ability to keep up and my expectation that my peers would expect more actual hockey knowledge from someone my age. The fact is I always found it loads of fun but I didn’t really watch it much or care to learn subtleties of the game for mostly 1-on-1 driveway matches or the occasional 5-on-5 with 2 subs neighbourhood game.
Tennis I never played once we changed schools, I went through an introspective and mostly depressing period of life and didn’t do much until I moved out of town for University. Then last summer I got into tennis through my work’s in-house tennis league. I’m not as terrible as I thought I would be and spent a lot of effort on taking it seriously. I was still playing with my racket from when I was a kid!! I’ve just signed up this year and I hope to take it just as seriously and have a great time playing with all the wonderful members of our league.
As for hobbies, well, I play video games and they are my bane. I waste so much time playing them that I fail to achieve my other goals for myself. It’s a damn shame I won’t be able to some day save the world with my game playing skills. Otherwise I like to read, I enjoy /having written/ but dread /writing/, and I would love to actually pick up my guitar and (learn to) play versus thinking about it and then not.
You all know I am also in Toastmasters and take it slightly more seriously than learning the guitar.
Well, I could go for awhile longer on this rather all-inclusive question but I will stop hear AND I think this post has /just enough/ of my own failure in it to justify a post on my blog (looking @HeyLady33 ;).

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You always seem to be analyzing people and trying to figure them out, do you think people do that to you as well? How do you think you come across?

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I do always seem to be analyzing people and trying to figure them out. I think it’s a habit I got into a long, long time ago first to analyze myself and then to understand other people for myself. A lot of people ask you to analyze them or people they know but without consciously doing so. By sharing their concerns or problems with other people they are appealing to you to analyze themselves or their neighbours to offer insight or advice.

We all want to understand each other (and ourselves) and often I am in a position to offer a different perspective on someone. I’m not concerned with being expressly right or wrong, so much as circling in on an understanding of each person. I realize we are all dynamic and many-faceted but fundamentally we all do things for similar base motivations and they are almost always noble in our own minds.

I think in the vast majority of situations I come across as either insightful or off the mark and possibly offensive. That’s simply because a lot of the time people are offended if you say something that doesn’t match their personal self-image or image of another person. We humans are also easily offended even when no malice or even any attempt to assert an opinion is made. Just because I might argue my reasoning for a view doesn’t mean I think only I am right, I just want to be clear in my line of reasoning before tossing it aside. Online, I’m sure people might think I’m a jerk, because we all have this lovely view of our piece of the internet being a private island of our ego’s on the seas of open sharing. We don’t like it if someone busts down the non-existent door and pretends to know us based on a few incidental observations. And you know what, that’s fair – I’ve actually recently chastised myself for doing this – I really don’t need to make myself more of an e-ass than I am through my already controversial opinions.

I suppose all I can do is console myself in the fact that everyone does this, whether they tell you or not. Many of us hide behind quick prejudices, some selected from stereotypes, and others elected by one or two statements from the recipient. At least I give you the opportunity to rebut my thoughts and the resultant opportunity to attempt to expand my understanding of “you”.

If I had more time to write this and more than the 3×8 window on Formspring to re-read it I could attempt to make this sound more dickheaded but as it is this will have to stand. Comments are welcome on my Blog.

What is the proudest moment of your life so far?

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The proudest moment of my life so far was my sister’s wedding. Seeing the first one of us kids committing to a lifetime of happiness with one person and joining into a whole new group of relatives was quite a moment.

I was proud of her and what she was doing and what it would mean to the new family she was just starting to create. I was happy and proud that my entire immediate family could make the trip from Ontario to British Columbia and all of us through Aunts, Uncles, and new distant in-laws managed to get along for a couple days and just be genuinely happy for these two kids exchanging solemn vows.

Pride is a funny thing. It can be an evil construct of the ego, undermining the goodness and purity of man’s actions, or it can be the glue that makes a defining moment in your life resonate and continue to define you. I’m thankful to my sister and her husband for giving me some glue to work with.

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