Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. London: Little, Brown and Company

| July 23, 2015

In his stunning new book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explores an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”, the best, brightest and the most successful individuals. In the narrative, Gladwell asks the question: what makes high achievers different? The answer to his question is that the audience should focus on what successful people are like and pay little attention to where they come from, such as their culture, their generation, their family background as well as the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. He provides various examples by giving explanations of the secrets of software billionaires and what it takes to be a great soccer player. The story is told concerning individuals who have made it rise in the ranks of the successful people- Outliers- that achievement is earned through hard work, personal means, and an incredible level of commitment. Gladwell engages and persuades the audience using anecdotes or real life examples to prove his sentiments. The book demonstrates a point that it is challenging for successful people to become an outlier entirely through his own merit. There are other uncontrollable conditions, such as the environment, culture and upbringing that influence an individual’s success. The book proves that even the best people need assistance to be successful.
The author argues that an individual cannot be successful all by himself or herself. To be successful takes many other uncontrollable circumstances for that particular individual to reach the top of his field. He applies a combination of research and real life examples in order to clearly convey his point to the readers. He uses a familiar and informal writing style that shows a closer relationship between his views and the readers’ point of view, through appealing pathos to assist the reader to relate to him through his narrative and understand his point of view. For example, the narrator talks directly to the audience when he states that, “Over the course of these chapters ahead, I am going to introduce you to one kind of outlier after another” (Gladwell 17). The author suggests to the audience that “We are going to uncover the secrets of a remarkable lawyer” (Gladwell, 17). Such a type of rhetorical strategy, talking directly to the reader on a comfortable and a familiar level assists to engage the reader’s attention and keeps readers’ interest as they continue reading through the text. The anecdotes offer real life examples of evidence of his theory at the same time covering the reader’s attention.
There are narratives on different subjects. These anecdotes comprise of a major league Canadian hockey to the computer genius, Bill Gates. His diversity of examples and stories demonstrate that his notion holds true, not only in a single case but also in various unrelated circumstances as well. Gladwell provides an example of a story concerning his family’s rise to success to give more weight to his thoughts. Hence, in an appeal to pathos, Gladwell explains how his mother transformed and rose from poverty to become a very successful person in the narrator’s life. Gladwell explains how he loved his grandmother who gave his mother a chance to rise to the ladder of success and this particular anecdote explains his thesis to the reader on rather a more personal and sentimental level compared to other narratives (Gladwell, 270).
Despite the fact that Outliers is a highly acclaimed text, there are several criticisms of his theories. An important issue that is evident in Outliers Is the absence of a proper definition of the term “success”. In reality, success is a subjective terminology and has several meanings attached to it. Besides, the term has different meanings to different people. In essence, the term “success” can refer to happiness, power, popularity or even wealth depending on an individual’s personality or status in the society or what one is craving hard to achieve in life. Therefore, it is upon the audience to assume the narrator is talking about success, basing his ideas to refer to being the best, as illustrated by the living examples such as Bill Gates, Joe Flom, and Bill Joy, who are all technocrats and have excelled in their areas of specialization. However, it remains clear that Gladwell only explores a single form of success in the Outliers. Gladwell’s view is considered as a type of success that does not appeal to everyone due to the fact that he never confronts the fact that success is defined differently across different cultures.
Gladwell only expounds on extreme circumstances of anecdotes or examples of the narratives explained in the text. Also, all the examples he provides only adhere to his opinions and none of such anecdotes sways even near his thesis. Probably, he decided on the anecdotes expressly for that particular purpose so that he could further convince his readers of his ideas that no one single person has ever attained success by himself or herself. In one chapter of the text, the author provides an example of the Beatles as evidence that “Outliers” in any given field have attained their lofty social or class status through a combination of several other factors through a combination of ability, opportunity, as well as utterly arbitrary advantage (Gladwell 38). Gladwell explains that the Beatles achieved 10,000 hours of band practice through playing for eight-hours a night at a club in Hamburg. The enormous amount of practice subjected the Beatles to be a better band compared to all other groups around (Gladwell, 47).
The other argument based on the topic under discussion is that Gladwell lacks a coherent and convincing argument in the point he provides concerning how people become successful. Many of his critics believe that while the text and quiet an entertaining book to read there is a lack of a concise explanation of Gladwell’s main point. Despite the fact that the book is persuasive, it lacks the power to attract the audience. In addition, the narrator’s opinions are generated by personal beliefs and biases. In fact, Gladwell provides many amusing, but irrelevant remarks or stories which do not offer adequate proof on the data or information provided. Therefore, while the audience agrees that the text is a fun read for most of the chapters, they are not adequately convinced of the narrator’s ideas and opinions.
Gladwell’s major interest is what makes people more successful. Therefore, Outliers reveals the otherwise hidden patterns behind outstanding achievements, which the narrator certainly adds to the received wisdom concerning why and how people achieve success. As such, the narrator has done a wonderful job through persuasion. He made the audience believe that success is made through a combination of uncontrollable variables of circumstance. The use of pathos as well as logos has fastened his rhetorical strategies, coupled with hard data and the use of colorful anecdotes made the text be informative and at the same time quiet interesting. Finally, Gladwell supplies the text with reliable facts and data coupled with attention grabbing anecdotes and relevant findings to make the work into his personal Outlier.

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