Saturday, October 24, 2009

Outliers - Book Review

When it comes to the most successful people we can think of we tend to believe things like:
"He was just born with that ability."
"She just has the gift for it."

But from the beginning of this compelling and enlightening book, Malcolm Gladwell quickly and convincingly proves us wrong time after time.

Gladwell shows us:

How being discriminated against as a Jewish attorney was the key ingredient to later producing the most successful and respected (and yes, Jewish) attorneys.

That it is not the brightest who succeed.

Success is not the sum total of our decisions and effort.

How cultural background led to more airline disasters in history; and how it was overcome.

That if we have ancestors who feuded, we are still a hothead.

How lucky are kids are if they play baseball and have an August birthday.

How a white plantation owner buying a slave because of her beauty changed the author's life.

Why Asians with rice paddy heritage are indeed better at math. (And how everyone can be better at it.)

And much much more...

Gladwell does an amazing job of relating data through stories that keep us hanging on like a "whodunit" novel. This is not a book for "eggheads." It is for everyone who wants to better understand the ingredients that make us who we are and why that matters.

When I think of who most needs to read this, parents, teachers, educators, and coaches come to mind. But I think that's too narrow; it's simply great information for us all.

I've read Gladwell's Blink and now this, and I must say that if a certain beer company were reviewing this author they'd say, "He has readability!" He owns that unique intersection where intriguing information meets compelling style.

This a great book that I have thoroughly enjoyed and couldn't help but tell people about--one of the best reads of the year! (maybe the best)

Malcolm Gladwell

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's so Vogue to be...

...Against something. I notice that it's so easy to pick. Easy to disagree. Easy to rant and rail against...all kinds of things: political figures, media, church people, church-not-so-much people.

It's easy to overhear when I'm here at Starbucks. Easy to read when I'm on FaceBook. Easy to see when I'm flipping channels. In the church. Outside the church."It's all going to hell because so-n-so..."

And clearly I have been there (still there some days). I used to take pleasure in a good rant and well-thought (or not so) tirade. But now it strikes me as it's the easiest of things to do. Which is to say, not necessarily the thing that adds any kind of value to anyone outside myself.

Culturally it seems hard not to take our cue from the media and politics. They both seem to be running the same play ad nauseam: whatever the other guy/network is doing, bash it, slam it, and tell them to cram it. And tell all your friends to do the same. And I think the truth is, we enjoy being whipped into a froth, in our sense of collective disdain.

But we don't have to follow suit. We do not have to follow this example. We could entertain the idea that disagreeing, yelling louder, being more vocal isn't very positive. Doesn't accomplish much. It just furthers the divide. Gets us worked up, with no other tangible results.

The more difficult things?
Exercising the creativity to notice people doing things right.
Doing something for someone v. decrying someone or something.

Did you notice the picture at the top of this post? Look at it. Slowly in detail (I'll wait...)

(Thought you'd never get back.) Did it make you smile? Did it make you wonder when the last time you felt like that? Do you want some of what they have? I do. Seriously.

They're playing a game...against an opponent. And they're what? Smiling. Yes, they are trying to win, trying to beat the other team, but with joy that spills out all over their faces.

When I find people doing things right. When I actually get up off my tuchas long enough to help someone, I feel touches of what the kids in the picture have in spades.

And I suggest that the more we decry, rant, complain, point out shortcomings--in people or organizations--we just become a little older and a little crustier.

This is a discipline I've been working on. I'm not great at it. But I am seriously trying to avoid easy criticisms. Instead I'm trying to find what's right in people and organizations and fanning those flames.

Will you join me? We don't have to follow the media and politicians. We can blaze a new trail--together.

Peace & love,