After I posted my comments concerning the 10,000 rule, Young and Spada made a reference to a book my Malcolm Gladwell called "Outliers". Not having heard of the book, but I was intrigued by their comments and went off to learn more about it. This past weekend, I picked this book up at Barnes & Noble.
I was not sure what to expect but I jumped right in. Reading a book with my eyes wide open is the best way to read any book. Accepting facts and listening to arguments made and then judging for one 's self if the material makes sense.
And an interesting book it is.
Mr. Gladwell provides explanation of what he sees as "Outliers" in society. This could be a single individual, family, or group. For that matter, it can be an entire culture.
At this point, I feel like I need to give a definition or better yet a translation of what an "Outlier" is but really I am not sure if it is possible. Being an Outlier doesn't necessarily mean that a person is smart, rich, or even successful. I guess if I have to give a definition, it would be a person who has an extreme appreciation for something – being that it could be skill, trade, and/or even knowledge. Or it could be something else entirely. Maybe the best definition is that the person is really good at what they do.
When I wrote my original post, it was in reference to once a person has performed a task or process for 10,000 hours (in my case running). This person could then think of themselves as an expert. I mean one would think after so many hours of performing this single rote action no matter how complex that action might be; this person would know the most efficient way of accomplishing that action. Now whether that is actually true or not is highly debatable I am sure.
Am I am expert in running after 10,000? This is probably even more debatable. Am I an expert at Software Development? Maybe not an expert but very experienced – "Yes".
In reading Mr. Gladwell's book, one is left with much to ponder. Following the theories outlined in this book - being born in the mid-60s, in the latter half of the year, in rural West Virginia, moving further into the south, and being an American, I'm not sure how I made it this far in life. But of course I might be too close and not seeing the forest for the trees. I do see some things thou. I had teachers that encouraged me. There were coaches that pushed me. Opportunities came for me to go to college and have a career much different from my parents. Maybe I just need to look at my cup as half full instead of half empty.
But is an Outlier truly the person born at the right time, in the right place, to the right family and only needing to connect the dots long their highly successful life. Maybe the true Outliers are the people that go against the statistics that they say they shouldn't be successful. And, who I am to say what is successful.
Success is not really something that is easily measureable in my opinion. Each person has their own "yardstick" for calculating their success and thus how they truly measure up. Furthermore, only they are in a position to do this self analysis.
All I really know is that come tomorrow morning I will get up, lace up my running shoes, run, come home, go to work, and write the best software possible for the company that employees me. Of this I am certain. For the rest of it, I will be keeping an open mind.
Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner