Outliers: The story of success

adams.v
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Outliers: The story of success

I have just started college and being a freshman at my university they require you to take these class called Freshman Year Seminars. Basically they are discussion based classes, nothing to serious. But we were required to read this book, Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell. I don't know if any one else here has read this book but it makes some unique assertions. Basically the concept in the book is that success is not made by the individual, like typical American thinking, but instead it is controlled by factors outside of ones control such as birth date, heritage, surroundings, etc.

 

Yes this is totally counter-intuitive and really to me the only example in the book that makes sense to me is one about the date of birth affecting your chance for success. He uses Canadian Hockey leagues and basically points out that about 70% of the best players on the best teams are all born in the same three months (I'm having a hard time recalling the exact months seeing as I have been studying Calculus all evening) and these months fall right AFTER the cut off date for the leagues. Meaning this players have basically a full YEAR to mature ahead of players born in the month before the cut off. To me this makes perfect logical sense, a year is a lot of time to grow when you are young kid, it can mean the difference between a few inches and 20-30 pounds in weight.

 

But the majority of the book I highly disagree with. He uses on example of Bill Gates saying that if hadn't had so many things provided for him as a child he never would have gotten to where he is today. He says that people who are successful do not make their success, rather their success is made for them, in other words its almost like its pre-determined. He says that people basically have no control over their success, that I.Q. means nothing (which in truth it really doesn't mean all that much) but that factors entirely outside of our control are what have the power to make us successful or not.

 

I'm just wondering if anyone on this site has read the book and what you opinions on it are? Or really just opinions on what I posted above.

 

 

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cj
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I doubt if anyone will like

I doubt if anyone will like my response.  Your success depends on you - a little bit.  A large bit is due to things beyond your control.  Bill Gates - yeah, he made a lot of money.  He wasn't the main original DOS programmer, he was the main business executive from the beginning.  He was lucky - he had no control over the fact that IBM was looking for an operating system for their new PC just as they were close to having a working OS.  No control over the cpu chip IBM choose for their new hardware.  No control over the peripherals used.  No control - and at first Microsoft was really trying to be as flexible as possible since everything was new and who knew what would be needed down the road?

I started as a student intern for a company near Tucson AZ.  The manufacturing engineering department had gotten management to buy two PCs.  They had a mainframe for accounting and payroll.  They had a VAX cluster for engineering analysis and design.  But they were using paper and pencil to keep track of work in process, failure rates, and such.  They got the PCs for the spreadsheet and database capabilities.  Graphics was a plus.  (I programmed an HP pen plotter using data from the database I created in dBase III.) 

MS had no control over the pen plotter, or the dot matrix printer, or the network cards, or much of anything else.  And they had no control over how fast it was accepted in the business community instead of the artistic/design/etc.  Granted, graphics sucked at first, but what business people wanted then was to be able to keep track of numbers and write letters.  And Bill had no control over that, either.

In my own life, I have worked as hard as I can and have gotten further than my parents.  I missed a number of opportunities - wrong place, wrong time, never enough money.  Who wouldn't like to have been fortunate enough to start an Amazon or Netflix?  At some point you begin contemplating being the next Colonel Sanders and being a multimillionaire at age 76.  In my dreams, it looks like.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

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That doesn't seem

That doesn't seem counter-intuitive to me at all.  The "American Dream" is a a lie for 99% of the population.  The biggest influences on wealth and status are all related to the micro-culture you are born into.  Are there exceptions?  Sure!  But they are called exceptions for a reason.

 

You can work damn hard and to the best of your ability your entire life and die as a Wal-Mart door greeter.  That's just reality.

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adams.v
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I agree that your chances

I agree that your chances for success are limited by the environment you grow up in, i.e. people with more money typically have a better chance at being successful. But at the same time I feel like you can't really define "success." It's really different for a lot of people, sure to some people success may be to become a billionaire and have anything they want, but to others success may be just being part of the middle class and having a family and enjoying how you live your life. I know for me personally that's how I see success for myself. I don't NEED to become a millionaire to be happy, sure it'd be nice but its not something I'm going to focus my energy on.

Instead I really just want to have enough money to do what I love and enjoy with my life, and I feel that I will always find a way to do these things no matter my financial situation. Granted this is an opinion and I understand that, hence why I posted this. I'm really just interested in seeing other people's opinions and views on this.

 

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I guess I would have to read

I guess I would have to read the book.  It sounds like he might just be talking about determinism, in which case, yea, I agree with him.  You can be the 'best' person in the world but if circumstance is not appropriate you will still fail.  The reverse is also true.  I'm not sure what he means about I.Q. being worth nothing though, I'm not sure how you could argue that intelligence does not impact success.  You might not see an opportunity in the first place if you lack the mental resources to parse the data around you.

 

From what you are saying, sure...if you define success in a wide enough way most people in a western culture can be successful.  I feel the need to specify western culture because most of us have an opportunity at least to have a non-shitty life, and a great many humans are not that fortunate.

Although, I suppose your attitude about happiness is going to be as influenced by your developmental environment as anything else, so now we're back to determinism Smiling

 

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adams.v
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Basically the book does seem

Basically the book does seem to talk a lot about determinism, although he never comes and outright says it he heavily implies it. Basically what he means by I.Q. not being worth much is some researchers took a large group of people with quite a bit higher than average I.Q.s and followed them from childhood and into adulthood. The main researchers expected the majority of them to end up extremely successful (success in this case meaning high paying jobs, C.E.O.s etc.) but in reality a very VERY small percentage ended up in the range of success. Most ended up living just completely average lives and some where on the complete other end of the scale, no job, no house, etc.

So that's basically what he is saying about I.Q. meaning nothing, it's basically all the other factors that matter, not your intelligence.

Science flies people to the moon, Religion flies people into buildings.


mellestad
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adams.v wrote:Basically the

adams.v wrote:

Basically the book does seem to talk a lot about determinism, although he never comes and outright says it he heavily implies it. Basically what he means by I.Q. not being worth much is some researchers took a large group of people with quite a bit higher than average I.Q.s and followed them from childhood and into adulthood. The main researchers expected the majority of them to end up extremely successful (success in this case meaning high paying jobs, C.E.O.s etc.) but in reality a very VERY small percentage ended up in the range of success. Most ended up living just completely average lives and some where on the complete other end of the scale, no job, no house, etc.

So that's basically what he is saying about I.Q. meaning nothing, it's basically all the other factors that matter, not your intelligence.

I think I would argue with him because that is a flawed methodology.  The test isn't if intelligent people are usually successful, the test is if successful people are usually intelligent.

 

Edit: Although I agree with his overall point, which would be that intelligence does not equal automatic success.

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adams.v
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Well see that's what they

Well see that's what they were testing. They wanted to test how much of an effect I.Q. had on peoples success. Cause I mean really, what do you think when you hear someone had a high I.Q.? I know a lot of people that will immediately think that person will be successful, which really isn't true.

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mellestad
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adams.v wrote:Well see

adams.v wrote:

Well see that's what they were testing. They wanted to test how much of an effect I.Q. had on peoples success. Cause I mean really, what do you think when you hear someone had a high I.Q.? I know a lot of people that will immediately think that person will be successful, which really isn't true.

Honestly I would think that person is probably an ass.  But I don't have a great deal of respect for the I.Q. test in general.  :P

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v4ultingbassist
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adams.v wrote:Well see

adams.v wrote:

Well see that's what they were testing. They wanted to test how much of an effect I.Q. had on peoples success. Cause I mean really, what do you think when you hear someone had a high I.Q.? I know a lot of people that will immediately think that person will be successful, which really isn't true.

 

Not really... I expect high I.Q. people to end up in science and technology fields, not as business people.


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I found that the book was

I found that the book was interesting in the way that it makes you rethink how many successful people such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got to where they were.  I have to agree with the author that a person's success is influenced by things that they cannot control.  However, that does not mean that the successes did not have to work in order to attain that achievement.


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mellestad wrote:I think I

mellestad wrote:

I think I would argue with him because that is a flawed methodology.  The test isn't if intelligent people are usually successful, the test is if successful people are usually intelligent.

 

Edit: Although I agree with his overall point, which would be that intelligence does not equal automatic success.

This is pretty much about emotional intelligence. I don't know how much is EQ scientifically approved, but people tell me about it... You know, on gatherings of classmates after 10 or 20 years, what do you find out? Some classmates who always did poorly at their lessons, with low grades and so on, may have succesful business after they get out of school. It is because they're not as good at moving 1's and 0's around, but they're good at moving people around. Most of people are emotional creatures and emotions rule the world. They might not get at expert positions or invent something, but they will make other people work for them and that's a measure of success.

 

 

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