For a few years now, reading has become more than a hobby. Every time I find myself looking for inspiration, I turn to books and they never disappoint. One such book is Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, which over time, has become my annual read and manages to leave my belief in human potential strengthened every single time.
In this book, Gladwell emphasises on the factors that create success stories. According to Gladwell, one must never ask what successful people are like but where they’re from. He focuses on elements that are at the heart of transformations that turn ordinary individuals into ‘outliers.’ His theory highlights how the time, the place and the environment someone is born in impacts the individual’s chances of attaining success. He elaborates his claims with examples that include the journey of ‘Outliers’ such as Bill Gates, Bill Joy, The Beatles, and even top hockey stars. Gladwell’s research reveals that in the seventh grade, Bill Gates attended a private school where he was given almost unlimited access to programming on the newest type of computer available. By eighth grade, Bill Gates was spending his entire week learning to program on a system that was very costly, and at a time when computers were a rarity even on college campuses. According to Gladwell, if Gates wasn’t given access to this computer, he would still be smart but probably not one of the richest men in the world.
The other important aspect of this book is the 10,000-hour rule, now, this is what brings the book together. While the external factors play an imminent role in providing the right opportunities to the individual it is up to them to realise the potential and put in the hard work that could turn it into success. Gladwell advocates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for anyone to master a skill & what these hours comprise of, determines the chances of success for them. For instance, between 1960-1964, The Beatles, one of the most famous bands in history, performed a total of 1200 shows which in total amounted to more than 10,000 hours. The Beatles had immense talent and ensuring they perfected their skills by putting in the maximum effort is what brought them success.
Quoting Gladwell, “Those three things — autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward — are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfils us”. He further says, “I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I’m guessing the former, because there is complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money.” The example stood out for me because of the point it brings forth and also because I can personally attest to how fulfilling my professional life as an architect is.
Being someone who believes hard work can take you a long way, I concur with Gladwell and believe that success is not an esoteric domain. Anyone can turn an opportunity into success given they recognize it at the right time and keep working towards achieving their goal. 15 years ago, when I started JTCPL Designs, I envisioned turning it into one of the top workspace design companies across the globe. Fast forward to today and we’re designing workspaces for some of the world’s biggest names & business houses across continents. This has only been possible because of the hard work and efforts of my team at JTCPL Designs and also because we were able to seize most opportunities that came our way.
Gladwell largely speaks of the effect someone’s time and place of birth can have on their chances of success. While those factors had valid applications back then, they certainly do not anymore. The lack of opportunities and the limitations on having access to them is going down rapidly every single day. There hasn’t been a better time to be one’s maximum self because unlike the yesteryears, this is the era of abundance. I believe, in this day and age, success is not exclusive to a select few and anyone who seeks it has the means to achieve it one way or another. And they can do so by bringing into practice my 5Ds of success: Dream, Dare, Discipline, Determine and Deliver (you can read more about it here).
‘Outliers’ has the power to change the way you perceive success as a destination, a result & show you the journey it truly is. I strongly recommend you give it a read.