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Have you ever known someone thats so amazing they should be famous? Someone that’s so insanely talented at something that some of the most popular practitioners of their particular skill aren’t as good as them? For instance what if you were walking down the sidewalk and happened to pass a singing street performer? This person may sing better than any artist you had heard before, this is someone you could see yourself listening to regularly. However instead of going on tours and releasing albums from a recording booth this person is making their living from singing to passersby hoping for some loose change.
The theory proposed by Gladwell in the book The Outliers is that though both the popular artist and the street performer may have the same skill and drive to succeed, it takes more than that to make someone successful. I think that his theory is correct, and I think because of this the world is unnecessarily unfair.
The book outlines the idea that success favors the successful, meaning people who are in good situations will have more good situations come to them than someone in a bad one. For instance imagine two people are born into two different families one having a lot of money and one having very little. The person born into the family with more money will have access to better learning resources growing up, they may be able to attend better schools or pay for advanced tutoring. While the person born into the family with less money will have a much harder time acquiring the same level of resources.
This alone puts the child born to the family with more money in a better position than the one with less, and doesn’t take into account any of the other factors that would negatively affect a child that grew up in a low income household such as possibly not having parents around as much because they’re working more. All of these factors combine to make the successful person continue to grow and succeed while the unsuccessful person has to struggle to get by. These outlying factors are what’s ignored when people say that hard work alone can make a successful person.
Ignoring these things can lead to a very unfair society, and ours as it is now has fallen into that category. Gladwell gives two great examples of age cutoffs leading to people being denied opportunities others were given, the first with sports players and the second with standardized tests. For many sports players not having a birthday in certain month could make the difference between becoming a successful athlete or not. This was even shown to be true in some professional sports, so are we to believe that having a birthday on a certain month makes a better sports player? In testing the average student that was younger than others because of the age cutoffs for school scored lower. If we know that putting students into classes earlier is going to have a negative effect on their ability to learn why do we do it? Gladwell thinks that there is a simple solution to this problem, having the actual ages be grouped more closely. He thinks that by having more classes and more sports teams we would be able to even out the ability levels of the people in them. This may cost more to the people running the operations, however it would lead to a more fair environment for those involved.
Gladwell believes that the majority of people subscribe to the idea that someone can succeed without anything but talent and determination. However the point that he’s trying to make is that by believing that we are becoming part of the reason that this unfair system exists. Some people work their whole lives to be the best they can at something, but they never break out, they never get noticed. There isn’t necessarily anything they could have done differently they just were never in the right place at the right time. This isn’t what we’ve been taught to believe however, and therefore the reason must be lack of one of those key skills determination or talent. I think he wants the readers to understand his point of view so that they can change the way they behave accordingly. By doing this we can stop holding ourselves and others up to such unrealistic expectations, where one might begin to think that their inability to achieve success is due only to their inadequacy.
Why do we continue to function in a way that doesn’t account for the outliers that cause success. By continuing to act this way we’re damaging the futures of so many people, but if we were able to change what would be different? If we could just adjust this one little thing then so many different aspects of life could be positively affected. Better education could lead to a smarter generation, less unemployment, there could be increased opportunities for aspiring sports players. People could be happier if they didn’t have this unrealistic idea that they could achieve anything with just grit and natural ability, and that being unable to succeed simply means they lack one of those factors. In understanding this idea we could make more people actually able to achieve their dreams with their own will and determination, rather than having them go unnoticed like so many others have before.
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