Success in any way you choose to define it, is acheived through hard work. There is little room to debate that. However, sucess is never acheived without the help of others and large amounts of good fortune.
Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell, seeks to redefine the way we view successful people. Each billionaire, professional athlete, or mathematical genius had help or an overwhelming advantage along their way. The point of the book is not to water down their success but to point out that with a little luck and some hard work, everyone has the potential to excel.
At first this concept seemed a little counter-intuative to me. People have talent, they work hard on developing it, and the success that follow is a result of this, right? Not so much.
I doubt you know that when Bill Gates was a teenager, he was enrolled in a private school that was one of the only schools in the country to have a computer club. This was 1968 and computers used to fill entire rooms and literally had to be programmed by hand via punched cardboard cards that were fed into the computer which were the instructions.
It was at this time though, right when Bill Gates was in eighth grade, that the “Mothers’ Club” at his school spent three thousand 1968 dollars to rent a computer terminal. It was a new terminal, one that was linked to a computer mainframe in downtown Seattle. It did not require the labor intensive card system to program it and was state-of-the-art. With this money, Gates and a few of his friends were left to program as much as they wanted to and on the best equipment possible at a very young age.
The book goes on to detail how Gates became obsessed with programming all throughout high school and college, sometimes falling asleep at the keyboard two and three times a night. When the time came along to design a new operating system for the next generation of personal computers, who do you think was the most proficient at this?
Bill Gates had the drive, the passion and the technical skill to revolutionize the computer world but how incredibly fortunate was he to be born to wealthy parents who could afford to send him to a private school which just so happened to invest in the state-of-the-art computer and grant him unlimited access? Very.
Behind every successful person, there’s someone or something else that helped them get there. Some, like who are parents are, are out of our control. Others, like the educational accessibility for all, are in our control. Gladwell argues that by changing the way we look at success and manipulating the factors we can control in our favor, we can provide more opportunites similar to the ones that a hard working and brilliant mind like Bill Gates had. It’s not that abstract of a concept, but it’s surprising how little consideration we have given it.
P.S. This is why I love books.