11 Mar

My takeout after reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is that no one is born a genius. Hardwork & training , from an young age is the key factor , added with a dose of luck by being at the right place at the right time. The magic number is 10,000 hours of practice at whatever one is good at, which makes them an outlier. I liked that concept as now I have an excuse of not being at the right place, not being born in a different household, not being in very conducive environment to further my talents etc..Well, you get the gist …

Last night, I was watching Chopped, followed by American Idol as they cater to my interests in cooking and music. And, obviously I was judging the contestants and my thoughts were echoed by the Idol and Chopped judges. That’s when I had an epiphany and I knew what I was an outlier at. Eureka!! I was very good at Judging. What contributed to my success at judging? As the book says, it involved lot of hard work and training, right from when I was a kid. I started judging my peers and made friends with a selected few. Being a virgo helped me to be a good/bad critic, depending on the perspective.Born into a society where every Tom, Dick and Harry judges others irrespective of his stature and skills, my judging skills have been refined over the years. My ethnicity of being an Indian, a culture imbibed with competitiveness and loose talk has honed it even further. 10,000 hours…Pphhtt..I am sure I have put more than that in judging/misjudging people.

I participated in Galaata Idol last weekend. I should have known better. No, I didn’t make it to the next round, in case you are wondering. To my friends’ amusement, who had judged me right as not being a good participant, I decided to test my singing skills in front of a limited audience and three judges. The first judge was an upcoming singer (according to reliable sources) and so was enthusiastic about being a judge. It was obvious that she wanted to contribute for the betterment of the singing society in the bay area and so was very liberal with her comments. We can call her the Paula Abdul of Galaata Idol. The second judge was another lady who had an amused expression on her face which said, “Whatever!! You guys are not that great, but I will anyway give my comments. I am here just because these fans asked me to”. The third judge, apparently has Sangeetham Gnyanam , though not a great singer himself. ( Again, the reliable source at task). He had a bored expression of “Been there, done that. Lets get it over with and select a few.” As you can see, I was sitting in a corner, too busy judging the judges’ comments as well as the participants. Here are some snippets for you..”Shruti konjam missing here and there…otherwise its OK.”, “ You got all the notes right, but you emoted a bit too much” resulting in a puzzled expression from a participant and a firm head shake from me. For the question ” In all the years that you have judged so far, have you met the ideal Idol yet?” Pat came the reply from the Gnyani, “No.” As I said, me being the outlier judge and all, I was thinking, “That’s not the right answer. If some one is that good, why would he or she be participating in Galaata idol”. Following the book, if some one is very good, talented and had the right opportunities, he/she would have made it big in India by now.
Now, start thinking and find out your talent in which you have put atleast 10,000 hours…I am sure we can all be outliers…Just need to bring it out..:-)


Posted by on March 11, 2009 in Books, From AM-KICKING blog


14 responses to “Outliers

  1. Saumya

    March 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    I liked the concept of having 10K hours of practice, it makes anything possible. But I thought a book to explain that was a bit much! I mean, as an author Malcolm Gladwell just doesn’t know when to stop is my opinion. He takes a point that can be said in one paragraph and beats it to death over a hundred pages!

  2. Survivor

    March 12, 2009 at 12:20 am

    @ Saumya,
    I was fascinated by all the examples that he had given, though he reiterated the same point. Actually, some of his examples really made me think..For ex, he talks about the “culture of honor” when talking about the Irish settlers who are in Kentucky region now. This made me think about where Indians got the “culture of honor” from.Why Indians are obsessed with legacy, Shame and Honor.

  3. Meera Manohar

    March 12, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I kind of agree with Saumya. I think the author does come up with original ideas/concepts. He does seem to do a lot of research. But in general the pattern I find in his books are:
    1. The start is particularly impressive
    2. Towards the middle, I really feel that he is losing his focus.
    3. Towards the end, sometimes I feel he has lost it.
    4. At the very end- he does seem to tie it all up rather nicely.

    Having said that Outliers is much better written than his earlier books IMHO. Although I would say that it has 30% or so of fat that could be trimmed.

  4. Mindframes

    March 12, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Interesting…Having read the book myself, I should say that I loved the book… More so, for the fact that it was inspirational and chimes with my philosophy that hard work coupled with luck is the prime ingredient for success… The book could have definitely be trimmed down in the mid sections… But, it so vibed with my thoughts that it kept me going…

    That brings up the next question…How thick a book should be… Should it be based on information content? I agree that this book could very well be summarized as an article of some sort. For that matter, most books can be summarized in a few pages. In fact, most of the fictional books are totally useless, from an information standpoint. To me, it is the research that goes into books that makes it more “interesting”… While the real world embraces successful people and the so called geniuses as extra-ordinary, his notion is different and is definitely non-intuitive… My anju paisa worth…:)

  5. Survivor

    March 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    People do research even for fictional books..for ex, Da Vinci code, pillars of earth you cannot claim they are useless. As you said, it is the research that makes it more interesting.
    As the saying goes,”it is the last 10% that requires 90% of our work”. No wonder the book impressed as you are an epitome of hard work and passion.Enna, romba ethi vittuteno 🙂

  6. Survivor

    March 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I think you put it very well. Yes, we need to trim the fat..and just build the muscle..:-)

  7. Meera Manohar

    March 12, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    @survivor: My bad, that was not meera, incorrect login.

  8. Manohar

    March 12, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Aargh! ok- Finally… that was me 🙂

  9. Survivor

    March 13, 2009 at 12:50 am

    @ Mano,
    1 in 3 is not that bad..:-)

  10. BrainWaves

    March 13, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Note: IMO * (following comments)

    First of all, nice way to merge your experience in Galatta with Outliers. I enjoyed it. And “judged” that you slid past the fact that you did not get selected 🙂

    Official judging is a tough job.. since they are hurting egos.

    On the subject of outliers, he had 5-6 very thought provoking ideas but dragged it more than necessary.
    Some of the “proofs” (Ex: China has old sayings which praises hardwork) are twisted facts. Some are plain drags.

    The reason for its success lies in people thought about this ideas one time or another and can associate.

    I have always thought computer engineers who came from India/China from 1993-2001 are unique.(Outliers)

    Switching back to the topic about judging, Indians (me included) give too much value to comments from judges (everyone around us).

  11. Manohar

    March 14, 2009 at 5:46 am

    @sriks: The success of any subject or book is in many ways based on number of people who can associate with it. But I’m not sure that the book was only good because people associate with it. I was actually skeptical to start with and based on the flow of book– started to enjoy the theme.

    1. how exactly do you claim that his quotes for ‘chinese proverbs’ are ‘proofs’?
    2. What is your source to claim it is twisted?

  12. BrainWaves

    March 14, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Mano@ One of the chapters compares chinese proverbs with russian & french proverbs. And implies that as one of the examples why hard work is valued in china.
    Reason I think it was twisted is, you can take selected proverbs from tamil to say they value hard work OR they value luck more depends on what you take.

  13. Manohar

    March 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    @sriks: I see what you are saying, probably a weak point as you mentioned. But I still wouldn’t call that a proof, to me that is at best a data point ( a rather weak one as you suggest). 🙂

    In anycase, I guess at the end of the day, one enjoys a book or not and I suppose we make cases to justify that. Come to think about it I couldn’t get past 20 pages of his previous book (Blink) for some reason and like most of his other books that was also a best seller. So I guess he will always be a Polarizing Author 🙂

  14. Mad Max

    March 16, 2009 at 6:10 am

    I agree with the basic idea…i once read an interview of guitar genius Eddie Van Halen…he said that to achieve the level of proficiency he has he practiced for 18 hrs a day in his garage for nearly 10 yrs…now thats new 66K hrs…no wonder he is a genius…nice one survivor.


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