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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joel Z. Williams Crib Notes: Outliers: why some people succed and some don't

Book Crib Notes
Book Title: Outliers: The Story of Success
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year: 2008
Date Reviewed: April 27, 2009
Overall Grade: A+

1. P. 25 The way Canadians select hockey players is a beautiful example of what the sociologist Robert Merton famously called “a self-fulfilling prophecy”— a situation where “a false definition, in the beginning…evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” Canadians start with who the best players are (they’re just picking the oldest every year) but the way they treat those “all-stars” turns them into great players, and makes their original false judgment look correct.

2. P.30. “The Matthew Effect” “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.” It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich that get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and the most attention. Success is the result of what sociologists call “accumulative advantage.”

3. P. 41. “The Ten Thousand Hour Rule” And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes you to put in 10,000 hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. The Beatles, Mozart, Bill Gates, Bobby Fischer, Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) all put in about 10,000 hard practice hours.

4. P. 100-101. Psychologist Robert Sternberg asserts that the principal differences between the extraordinary talents of the world’s smartest man, Chris Langdon, and Manhattan Project theorist Robert Oppenheimer is “Practical Intelligence” versus “analytical intelligence”. Unlike analytical intelligence, which most geniuses have innately, they must develop PI though “concerted cultivation”. Because Oppenheimer possesses PI, he is able to talk his way out of attempted murder, whereas Chris Langdon can’t talk himself into college despite an IQ of 200. Langdon grew up under “accomplishment of natural growth.”

5. P.149. Autonomy-complexity-and a connection between work and reward are the three things most people would agree are necessary for work to be satisfying and meaningful.

6. P.155 the best law firm in the world is housed in the prestigious office building known as Black Rock in midtown Manhattan: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz. There is no firm in the world that has made more money, lawyer for lawyer, over the past two decades. All sons of Jewish garment workers.

7. P. 166 “A Culture of Honor” usually tends to take root in highlands and other marginally fertile areas, such as Sicily or the mountainous Basque regions of Spain. Rocky, steep hills are not good for raising crops, so people there tend to raise goats or sheep. The culture of herdsmen is very different than the culture of people that grow crops. Raising crops requires lots of cooperation of others within the community, whereas a herdsman is mostly solitary. The farmer doesn’t worry about others walking away with his crops but the herdsman is always wary of theft of his livestock, and must sometimes make an example of those who would steal from him using threatening words and deeds. He must be willing to fight even the slightest challenge to his reputation, and thus a culture of honor is born. It’s a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth. (According to ethnographer J.K. Campbell.

8. P-260 The school year on average in the US is 180 days, South Korea=220, Japan=243

9. P.224 Rice Paddies and Math Tests. Rice paddies are small about the size of a hotel room. A typical Asian rice farm might consist of two or three paddies. A village in China of about 1500 might support itself on 450 acres of land which is about the size of an average American Midwestern farm. The paddies are meticulously kept and their hard clay beds have to be perfectly level. Water irrigation is controlled through a system of intricate gates and chutes. 3000 hours each year compared to 1000 by the IKung Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana (mongongo nuts) and the peasants of Burgundy France and Russia.

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