Malcolm Gladwell's story of failure

"Outliers," the new book by "Tipping Point" author Malcolm Gladwell, is subtitled "A story of success." It's a fine book, but the story is actually about failure.

The first blow deafened my ear as if a thousand Woody Woodpeckers shouted at me all at once.

"You've been writing about piffling frivolities!" screamed my CNET handler, cuffing me like a pekingese who had just piddled on his presidential rug. "Can't you just do something serious for a change?"

Then he threw a book at me and shouted: "Read this. You might learn something." The book was Malcolm Gladwell's new bestseller "Outliers." Subtitled "The Story of Success," it is a pithy commentary on some of the entirely understandable (when you think about them) whims that contribute to huge successes.

The Canadian hockey team, for example, is comprised of people born in the early months of the year because they were physically advantaged when they were but little pucks. Bill Gates was fortunate to have access to just the right equipment at just the ripe young age to hone his skills and put him ahead of those who didn't wear glasses and didn't want to make a fortune.

Even The Beatles were lucky to be shunted off to Hamburg, Germany, where they were forced to perfect their pop ditties for more than 10,000 hours.

"It's not enough to ask what successful people are like," writes Mr. Gladwell."It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't."

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It is a fine book that takes you many fewer than 10,000 hours to read. However, it is, perhaps, the most misnamed book of all time.

"Outliers" is not the story of success. It is the story of failure. Most of us, when we analyze our lives on cold, damp bar stools, fail. If we didn't, there wouldn't be shrinks. Or tequila.

And Mr. Gladwell's book is perhaps the most reassuring of any that has ever been written for those whose lives have vast holes of unfulfillment that only an extension of Google Earth called Google Soul (you think they won't try and create it, those googlies?) could identify.

"Outliers" encourages us to look for every single explanation as to why we didn't do what we hoped we would do. It tells us there are far more than we had ever imagined. It asks us to really analyze how the whole world is far more against us than for us. Except for a lucky few.

I would have been a brilliant left-fielder, you see. It's just that I was born in the United Kingdom. And my parents were foreign (it's their 55th wedding anniversary today. Do drop them a line). And English was my second language. And the nearest batting cage was, well, probably 3,000 miles away. And Joes Buck and Torre would NEVER have been able to pronounce my name.

See how easy it is? Try it yourself this weekend. It'll make you feel a whole lot better.

 

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