Ok, time for book review #2. I promise it won’t be as long as my first book review a couple of weeks ago. And if you’re wondering why I am spending time writing book reviews, head over to this post to get familiar.
And now for the book, drumroll please….
Our good friend Dan… who is kind of like a human encyclopedia. It’s true.
So this isn’t a brand new book (it’s from 2008), but when it was written is somewhat irrelevant. The author Malcolm Gladwell does this amazing job of sharing the lives of real people who have done extraordinary things or have extraordinary talents. But he doesn’t just share them. He shares the complex set of puzzle pieces that all fit together just right for the person to succeed (or not succeed). This book is full of a deep level of insight. It’s downright awesome.
Often in society, we only hear about the successes of successful people. And the assumption for those folks and for each of us is that you are supposed to find your passion, work super hard, make it for yourself, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll become the best… an extraordinary success. This book sets out to share how there are contributing factors to success that people don’t think about, forget about, or don’t realize. I hesitate to share any of the stories because I don’t want to spoil them for you.
But just know that the stories the author chose are engaging and awesome. Ok – here’s a teaser of a story – why almost all professional hockey players in Canada have birthdays that fall in January, February, and March. Coincidence? Nope.
Hockey players, Bill Gates, students in the Bronx, airline pilots and airplane crashes, rice paddy farmers, the Beatles, geniuses… the stories shared are varied and each equally compelling.
Malcolm Gladwell analyzes cultural norms, parenting differences, time in history, things that are sometimes out of the control of the person experiencing their path to success… like that Bill Gates had access at age 13 to a machine that helped foster his computer genius. A machine that was practically a novelty to the most elite colleges at the time nonetheless. What if everyone who had interest in computers at that age were able to have that same chance, that same opportunity? Who knows? But what we do learn from this book and Bill Gates’ story is that a random opportunity like that long before he had built his business, became a critical puzzle piece in his success story.
This book is so fascinating. It took me a while to figure out what to write about this book. I have found myself talking about and thinking about this book many times since I read it, so it’s really stayed with me. And a good book should do just that.
It also makes me wonder what my puzzle pieces are – what factors are present in my lifetime that have helped give me opportunity where it may not have existed for others and why. Or what will shape my childrens’ lives. It also just makes me think about people in general – their stories. I love knowing people’s stories. He calls the factors that contributes to people’s stories, “History’s gifts.” What a great way to express that.
And this book reminds us to allow for some grace within the immense pressure that is in society today. Obviously his message is not saying that hard work is irrelevant. Of course not. Hard work is a core part of success in the stories he shares. Instead its about the notion that sometimes we focus so much on what we can control and trying desperately to do more, buy this helpful tool or gadgets to make us smarter, faster, stronger, and just keep plugging away. And how there is more happening in the world around us that is affecting us in real ways that has nothing to do with hard work. I think anyway, that it’s a nice reminder to take off a little of the pressure we place on ourselves. Do your best because you want to be proud of your best work, and allow room for the grace of letting the rest be what it will be. Life is full of exciting and interesting surprises.
Everyone. Everyone who loves a good story, is fascinated by people and their journeys, who is a history aficionado. It’s good stuff.
Good work, Malcolm Gladwell. This book was fantastic.