The Outliers Revisited

I re-read parts of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers over the holidays, and it got me thinking.

For those of you who may not know, Malcolm argues that luck – specifically experiencing what would be called ‘a lucky break’ – has a lot to do with a person’s success. He believes that luck is the first critical factor of a three-factor combination that figures into most people’s success. The other two are aptitude, followed by the time required to become an expert.

I like the book for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s really easy to read Gladwell books. He has a great style. However, in the case of Outliers, I also happen to agree with him. In fact, his formula is my career. I got really lucky, I was good at it, and I put in thousands of hours getting even better at it.

Luck is what started my career. However, it isn’t luck that has kept me working all this time.

Luck isn’t a strategy.

Becoming good over the long run is the result of effort and tenacity and being smart. This is true for individuals and organizations.

The people who are good in the long run fail a lot, especially at the beginning. So when you fail early, it might be worth realizing that this is part of the deal, the price you pay to get good in the long run.

Every screw-up is a gift. It’s a chance to learn and try to do better the next time. As I said to my daughter on the ski hill the other day after she took a spill, “It’s an opportunity to learn how to bounce, not break.”

The luck is just a moment. The long run is for life.


Comments (2)

Sure, but what is luck, actually? It’s chance, yes, but not pure chance — it’s chance plus the recognition of opportunity. And recognizing opportunity is something you can train yourself get good at. Keeping your eyes and mind open is the first step at gaming luck in your favour.


Eric I get excited whenever you comment – it’s always gold. Thank you. I will check out the podcast. I love science (both sides …) DMW

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