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Good Books

Outliers Review

Outliers should be on the reading list of anyone interested in making themselves better at anything. 

Outliers: The Story of Success by journalist Malcolm Gladwell examines many of our our common notions about what makes a great person great and then upends them.

Sure, much of western culture is built upon the notion that hard work will get you ahead in this world, but far too often the same genetic fatalism that reigns in the medical world makes us believe the roll of the hereditary dice matters more than our actions.

Outliers makes a convincing argument that it it is not the predispositions we're born with, but how hard we go after our goals while utilizing the opportunities that fall in our path that allows a person to become great.

What is the cost of greatness? About 10,000 hours, according to the researchers that study such things.

Whether it be ice skating, chess, mastering an instrument, writing, or doing practically anything else, about 10,000 hours of practice will move you from novice to among the elite in your field. It doesn't matter how inept you are, if you keep plugging away, you get there.

Outliers: Examples From Life

Gladwell applies this rule to the Beatles, Bill Gates, Mozart, and the best players in the Canadian Hockey League, showing they all achieved mastery of their art after about 10,000 hours of practice, regardless of the talents they may have been born with.

Outliers CoverConversely, Gladwell demonstrates several examples of geniuses and prodigies who, uninterested in improving their weak spots, failed to make the right connections and remained failures. When researchers tracked the highest-IQ children in California from youth to adulthood, they expected them to turn out to be world-class inventors, politicians, and businessmen. Most, however, failed to really distinguish themselves, despite their inherited genius.

If natural ability was important, we would see several things among the students of Berlin's elite Academy of Music - some students would be at the top despite practicing less because of their natural aptitude. Others who lacked any natural aptitude would be practicing far more than normal just to stay above water.

When researchers had the academy's teachers divide their 20-year-old violinists into three groups based on ability, though, they found that the uniting factor for each group was the average total number of hours musicians had practiced playing the violin over the course of their entire careers.

The lowest level students averaged 4,000 hours of practice over their lives, the middle tier - 8,000. And here's that number again: The elite tier had put in 10,000 hours of practice by age 20.

Outliers also tackles some other interesting topics, like overcoming the cultural setbacks that turn people into poor performers.

So often I've thought of myself as being good at certain things and bad at others. I found it refreshing to have it pointed out to me that I'm only ever as good as the effort I put in.

Overall, it's a nice book, and worth the read. You can get a copy here.

Following Up On Outliers:

Read more about improving yourself in, "The Raw Food Lifestyle."

Find reviews for more health and personal development books like Outliers here.

Learn about a healthy raw food diet.


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