Outliers is definitely Malcolm Gladwell’s finest book to date. And I am going to keep this review really simple, because the simplicity of Malcolm’s book has earned it. I read the book in one sitting and found myself welcoming the morining sun as I read the last sentences. I simply could not put the book down.
According to Malcolm, there are two things that make you gifted. First, why, how, when, who, where, what and how much you were born into and lived in, the gift of your environment. Second, how many hours you practiced, the gift of hard work. And the two were interdependent. There were no born prodigies or self-made successes in this world. There were instead many world-made, effort-made successes, and repeating world-made, effort-made success was not that difficult. The world could be tailored to gift most children by grouping them by narrower margins of maturity, going over the material slowly to develop comprehension and then practice, practice, practice at school and at home. And if the children need a summer break, a change is better than a rest. Give them two months of educational field trips or meaningful apprenticeships.
There is even a good argument that we should adopt the Cantonese verbal language for our number system. It would be the greatest leap forward since we adopted Arabic numerals.
I think Outliers is not only recognition that individuals are gifted by the world and practice, it is also a recognition that we are now in a world of competing agri-cultural philosophies. The West is accustomed to one planting, a unhurried summer, one harvest and a winter’s hibernation. The East is accustomed to two to three intense plantings, two to three intense cultivations, two to three intense harvests and an intense preparation over a dry season for the next first planting. Where the West may only have worked 1000 hours annually the East worked 3000 hours annually. The gap between Western and Eastern philosophies regarding work are just as profound.
Eastern agricultural philosophy makes the Western agricultural philosophy leisurely and statistics make the self-made man delusional.
The one thing left out is which offers the greater quantity and quality of life? How much time is spent in the play state as opposed to the work state? Which gifts us a better world?