heatherfromthegrove’s non-fiction spotlight for today: “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

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Monday, July 22 – Saturday, July 27


 @ heatherfromthegrove!

Enjoy some good summer reading.

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“Do you see the consequences of the way we have chosen to think about success? Because we so profoundly personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung…We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And most of all, we become much too passive. We overlook just how large a role we all play—and by “we” I mean society—in determining who makes it and who doesn’t.”

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

True to form, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell (Blink and Tipping Point) takes us on an intellectual expedition into the realm of high achievers – über-successful people like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and the phenomenon known as “The Beatles.”  An “outlier” is, in Gladwell’s own words, “a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience.” In the context of his book, outliers “are the men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August.

Dispelling the notion that extremely successful people attain success because they make it happen –through their own smarts, tenacious drive, willingness to hustle and, good old-fashioned hard work,  Gladwell points out that there are many extremely intelligent, highly gifted, hardworking people for whom success has been an elusive mistress. Therefore, the common dogma of “You are the author of your own destiny. You make your own success.”  does not apply in many cases. In this book, Gladwell asks us to shift our focus from what successful people are like,  to where successful people come from.  He argues that one’s culture, family background and upbringing play a significant role in the makeup of a high achiever.

Clear, witty and intelligent, Outliers offers a new perspective on what it takes to achieve extreme success. Granted, success does rely – to a great extent – on individual effort. However, what should not be ignored is the degree to which outside factors, such as people and circumstances, affect a person’s success or failure.  Therefore, we (as a society) have the ability to help shape people’s lives, and  (if directed in the right way and with the best intentions) for the better.   

Steve Jobs – gone too soon….and in his own words “how to live before you die”

Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs  – February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

I am a Baby Boomer. I grew up in a time when I had to use an old Brother typewriter to type up my highschool essays.Then came a few tentative innovations in the evolution of wordprocessing: the Timex Sinclair and the Commodore 64 computer (yikes, we still have them stored somewhere, after all these years!).

Clearly, we all knew  that our generation was going to bear witness to a technological revolution that would change the way we worked, created, and communicated.   And we were not disappointed.  In the mid-1970’s,  young  technology visionairies-turned inventors-turned entrepreneurs led us all into a new era of computers  –  with the introduction of the Mac and the PC.  The names of some of these creative geniuses may sound familiar:  Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and (of course) Bill Gates! These very (very) young men proceeded to take Silicon Valley by a storm!  And their impact was global.

So, yes, I am proud to say that I am part of that idealistic generation of young men and women who participated in a technological renaissance that we will likely not  ever see again … with the exception of  the Millennium’s new breed of tech geniuses who created Google and Facebook.

When I learned that Steve Jobs died two days ago at the very young age of 56,  after a long and brave battle with pancreatic cancer, I was very, very sad.  Gone too soon.

I would have loved to be sitting amongst the Stanford University graduates of 2005 at their Commencement Ceremony, as Steve Jobs imparted some passionate words of wisdom to a whole new breed of young idealists.

Here are some of  the highlights from his Commencement Speech:

On the subject of love and loss:

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

On the subject of death:

” Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external  expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart……”

“… No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

And, Steve Jobs wrapped up his speech with four simple send-off words to the 2005 Stanford graduates  –  words to live by:

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Rest in peace, Steve.  And, thank you for having shared your dreams with the rest of us.

Photos via Thepoliticalcarnival.net, Wired.com, and Thedroidguy.com.