Monday, September 14, 2009

Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Chapter Review: Chapter 1: "The Matthews' Rule"

It has been quite some time since I last read a book at the speed and enjoyment that I am having now, in fact, since I got myself a more or less permanent internet connection there in Germany. You see, having an almost always connection to the wide wide web causes my concentration to falter to such a degree that I can no longer single-task well. I really think I should disconnect once in a while, just so that I can catch my breath and get away from the overloading inflow of information for my many sources of news.

Anyway, that is not the point of this post today. This post will mark the starting of a new series of posts in this blog, talking about the books I am currently reading and the insights that it provided me with.

Currently I am reading the book Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell had previously also written "The Tipping Point" and "Blink," all serving to point the little points that ultimately build up to success. In "The Outliers," Gladwell points out the various small external factors that lead up to success.

Chapter 1 of the book talks about the Matthew Effect, named after a phrase in the Matthew Gospel: "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." Matthew 25:29.   Gladwell talked about the peculiarities of the ice hockey professionals in Canada, and the football and hockey team of Czech Republic. When we look at the birth month of all these teams, almost all of the players were born early in their respective year.

This boils down to how the selection of the players when they are young are done. The cut off month for most selection process is put at the middle of the year, making those born later in the year not eligible. So, at a young tender age of 6 or 7, those born earlier in the year have a small advantage over those born later. This small difference builds up as the years passed, since the "best" will always be selected to train with better trainers. So after 10 or so years, the best players are the ones with this small advantage when they are young.

This trend continues in life as well. The best people in many fields gets better and better at their own field; the rich kept getting richer; the best athletes kept beating their own records; the best scientists kept discovering newer and better ways to generate energy. The list is endless.

So for me, the lesson from the first chapter in Outliers is clear: opportunities are essential to success. When the opportunity is there, seize it, no matter how small it is, and build on it. Success is often built on a good foundation. Once the basics are down, we can continue to the next step, which is hard work. This is outlined in the next chapter: The 10,000 hours rule. I'll post a discussion on this when I am done with that chapter.



  1. That part about having a permanent internet connection is so true...I found that anything on the internet becomes the first thing I do, even though there might be other "offline" stuff that's actually more important (or enjoyable)

  2. so efficient,i thought u will take days to blog this haha.