Monday, December 22, 2008

OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell

I said I didn't plan to read it. That was not a lie. But Rachel and Patrick sent it to me since we had talked about him at Thanksgiving -- Rachel was reading Bling. I'm about a third through and it's doing a job on my inner self. The first chapter or so seemed to glib, I resist this pop style of writing But then he described the "smartest man in the world" who simply hasn't made it in the success terms one would expect, and the analysis of why reinforced almost everything I've both thought and felt -- it's the felt part that's hard -- for a long time.

I knew I agreed with Gladwell and said I've long believed "the cream does NOT always rise" despite having been told time and again that this is an unarguable truism. As he explains how Larry's background stopped his success and continues to do so, I felt like literally crying as I feel this very minute. So much waste, so much unfairness! I am not a genius, not even Mensa IQ level, let alone in the stratosphere where he is, but I've known for a long time that I'm "smart enough" as are so many of the successes he describes. But I've been aware of the things that have frustrated me and they are not so different from Larry's, so some of my sadness is self-pity. Yes, I'm at an age when that should be behind. But is it ever?

Finally I had a strangely satisfying thought. It is the nature of Nature to over produce, i.e., thousands of acorns get eaten by squirrels but one might become another oak. And so it is with "smart enough" people - some achieve this or that success, some become outliers and some are under-developed all their lives. It is an algorithm by which the world works, who said Darwinianism is fair? Gladwell simply broadens the definition of "fittest". I'm glad I'm reading it and thinking it over; thinking is always better than burying your head content with what you've been able to come up with by yourself.

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