Why Should I Read | Outliers

What is the question we always ask about the successful?

We want to know what they are like, what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top.

Outliers, pg. 18

Malcolm Gladwell is an author who typifies Mark Twain’s exhortation to be a “prodigious noticer.” While Twain used his prodigious noticing power to point out humor, Gladwell takes stock of common assumptions and everyday opinions.

As an author, Gladwell, asks “why” in a way that is entertaining and informative.

The American archetype is an individual who is a “self-made man” or someone who “overcame the odds.” This book takes a closer look at the assumption that we hold regarding success. Gladwell comes right out and says it bluntly, “People don’t rise from nothing” (pg 18). He states that one’s background, family upbringing, and environment have much to do with later success. This is a fascinating aspect of the book, and I encourage you to go check it out.

This revelation doesn’t lift the burden from individuals who desire success though. There is still a threshold of mastery one must overcome to even consider becoming an outlier in a certain area.

 Through the stories of people like Bill Gates and the Beatles, Gladwell points out that people who are massively successful had the opportunity to put in ten thousand hours of practice in their field of endeavor before they became massively successful. A study by K. Anders Ericsson of violin students at the Berlin’s elite Academy of Music, demonstrated this trend in 100% of the students there. All of the students tested were already in the top level of music school, but yet were separated into three groups. “Group A” were potential world-class soloists, “Group B” were merely ‘good,’ and “Group C” were unlikely to play professionally and were headed to be public school music teachers.

violin pic

Ericcson’s researchers discovered that by the age of twenty, all  of the elite performers had logged ten thousand hours of practice time. The merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers roughly four thousand.

Here’s where things got crazy for me as I was reading this portion of the book. From pg. 39

The striking thing about Ericcson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.

They work much, much, harder.

According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, “No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.”

Levitin states that this concept of ten thousand hours holds true across a multitude of disciplines: writers, basketball players, master criminals, chess players, etc.

That idea is extremely empowering when one gets right down to the base premise:

If you will put in your ten thousand hours, you will become a master at what you have chosen to do.

I remember reading this concept when I was 18, and thinking to myself, “I have a several chunks of ten thousand hours available to me if I live a regular life span.” And it’s true for you as well, if you desire to completely master a topic, within ten thousand hours of practice you can achieve that goal. I can look at my  grandfather who is a master at farming strawberries. You could ask him any question regarding the fruit, and he would be able to tell you all about the relevant process. This knowledge comes from owning a strawberry farm since 1976.

There are a number of other topics housed within our assumptions about success that Gladwell deconstructs throughout the book. Yet without mastery in a subject, one is unable to capitalize on their latent advantages of culture, upbringing, and environment.

Overall, this book is massively fun to read due to the plethora of stories Gladwell uses. Hockey player birthdays, Jewish lawyers of the 1970’s, Asian math abilities, and the smartest men in the world are just the beginning.

So what have you put ten thousand hours towards?

Have you seen this week’s video?

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Friendship: Deposits and Withdrawals


Friendship is a word in our culture that has lost much of its meaning. Now, this is not a post ranting about how “Back in my day, when you unfriended someone they had a black eye.” No, I believe that while friendship has deteriorated because of less quality interaction, it is a topic that we can do something about! So let’s dive in.

What is Friendship?

A Friend is defined on Dictionary.com as “a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty.” Does that describe the people that you interact with regularly? If it is, awesome let’s learn how to keep it that way. If not, perhaps we need to examine a few true friends from history and draw an analogy.

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.

-Elbert Hubbard

In many stories from history, a friendship plays a large role. You can check out a great in-depth article on Male Friendships on this site: artofmanliness.com/malefriendship

The Bible has something to say on every subject and true friendship is no different. One of the most iconic friendships of all time was the relationship between David and Jonathan.

A good summation of their relationship can be found in 1 Samuel 18:1

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

You can read a full account of their adventures in 1 Samuel chapters 18-20

Another friendship that is less well known is the relationship between George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary war. Washington, a man of 45 developed a tight relationship with Lafeyette who, at 19, came to america to fight for freedom. They met soon after Lafeyette arrived and immediately bonded. They ignored their age difference because they were united towards a goal of freedom. After the Revolutionary war, they kept in contact as Lafayette returned to France to become involved in the French Revolution as the Commander of the French National Guard. His first act as Commander was to raze the Bastille. He took the key to the west portal, a key that held over 5,000 prisoners captive during French Monarchy and sent it to his friend, George Washington. That key still hangs in Washington’s historic home, Mount Vernon, to this day.


So what is the difference between that one person that sits on your friends list on facebook that you kind of know and the unshakeable bonds that held together great leaders of history like Washington & Lafeyette?

In each of the two examples we looked at there were a few principles.

  • Common Purpose
  • Continuing Communication
  • Shared Experience

These each could be talked about at length, but suffice it to say that without some form of commonality, a certain amount of communication, and some interaction together a friendship does not happen.

So what’s the difference? Why do so many people feel alone in the crowd, or isolated among others. One analogy that I have heard from Life Leadership leader George Guzzardo is to visualize each relationship that you have as a bank account. With common purpose, different forms of communication, and experiences that people share- they create deposits into each other’s bank accounts. Each period of time that one or all of these are missing create withdrawals in those accounts.

As a spin-off to this analogy, I would like to challenge you to think about the quality of deposits you are putting into other’s accounts. Remember, as you deposit into other’s accounts, you are creating greater potential for others to fill yours as well. There is a big difference between liking the same page on facebook and going camping together. Think of either laughing so hard you can’t breathe with friends or texting someone “LOL” or going way overboard and texting “ROTFL” You see the difference? One is real money in the account the other is Monopoly money.

So my question for you is this.

Whose account is filled with Monopoly money that you need to go fill with real deposits?

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Some things seems like magic.


And in certain cases that one change behaves like magic!

Such was the case of Frank Bettger, a Professional Baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals. After a in-game injury he was forced to search for a new career. Finally settling on life-insurance sales Frank spent 10 months frustrated.

But then he remembered the magic.

Back when he was a player on a baseball minor league team making $175 dollars a month Frank was fired for being lazy. He reported to his new team and was informed that he would only be making $25 a month- not much even in the early 1900s.

But Bettger was smart, he resolved to fix the problem that got him demoted.

He resolved to be the most Enthusiastic player the league had ever seen.

He quickly gained notoriety, eliciting this quote from the local newspaper

“This new player, Bettger, has a barrel of enthusiasm. He inspired our boys. They not only own the game, but looked better than at any time this season.”

Within two weeks, Bettger received a promotion and a better pay plan of $185 a month, More than he had made previously!

Fast forward a few years to Bettger effectively receiving that same demotion as a salesman. He didn’t mope or complain though. And he didn’t blame anyone else either! He used the Magic.

He again resolved to be the most enthusiastic person he came across and this transformed his business. He learned many other secrets during his astoundingly successful career. He writes much of his life wisdom in his enduring classic book How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling

how i raised myself Depending on your personality, like we talked about last week, you will implement enthusiasm differently in your life. But everyone can see a change! As Frank said,

Double your enthusiasm, double your results!

If you would like more information about how to put more enthusiasm into your everyday life check out this article

The one thing to do in 2014


You’ve all heard the phrase,

All Leaders are Readers.

And this is true. If you’re hoping to lead, you need to be hungry to be grow. If you want to become more than the person you are now, then by definition you’ll need an outside source to draw from. Many people wonder what it would be like to meet great figures of history. But if you had a chance to go back and talk to them, don’t you think that they would sound a lot like the books that they wrote?

Refer back to the picture above, Newton said it best, “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

There are so many things that we could delve into in a discussion on reading. There have been a plethora of tips, pointers, strategies on reading available. Some are great! Some are less so. I have even spent a day in a speed reading course when I started my college studies. It was dubiously useful to say the least.

Here are three things that I think are vitally important to reading. Here they are, your mindset before, your activity while reading, and your remembrance after you’re done. 

These three ideas apply very well when you’re reading for a purpose as opposed to reading for enjoyment (Yes, people still do that). Reading simply for enjoyment can be valuable as well, because the classics and many solid novels of today deal with situations and issues and you can expand your horizons by reading great stories.

So what should you be thinking about as you get ready to read? Even when you’re reading fiction, you should be aware that you’re taking in information. Be active, recognize this, and read to gain knowledge. Why is this important? For one, that’s why the author wrote the book: to share his or her knowledge that they gained through experience or from other books. Another reason to gain knowledge is that our excellence glorifies our Creator. Refer to 2 Timothy 2:15:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

So if our goal is to gain knowledge from those who have the results we want, it logically follows that we must be controlling the books that we choose to read or highly trust those that recommend books to us. By integrating the knowledge you gain from a book into your life, you become more like the author. That is why it is an integral part of your mindset before reading to be actively controlling the selection of books that you’re choosing from.


So you’ve chosen a book, what’s next? Of course, grab a pen! *This does not apply to library books unless you use a notebook*  Your activity while reading is to have fun studying the book. Yes, have fun studying the book! With your pen in hand, you are in control. You decide what you learn when you have the pen. Why is that? When you have a pen and use it in a book, the things that you underline, star, write a note in the margin on, or summarize stick with you. Here’s why it’s fun, You can argue with the author this way! You can figure out their thought process as they put the book together.

As a side note, you do not need to finish a book if you realize you don’t want that author’s thinking in your brain. I remember reading a novel when I was about 12, about halfway through I realized that I didn’t need to be reading that book, but I finished it anyway. That story is stuck in my brain forever now when I could have spent that time reading something wholesome. Life is too short to read junk.

Your remembrance of a book  after finishing is directly related to activity while reading. If you take the time to write down an idea after each chapter, and when finished go back through and read your underlined sections and the main ideas of the book you will remember much better. If you have a collection of books, it is also very helpful to categorize books for future reference. A lesson you’ve learned from a book can be as comforting as a good friend and you don’t want to forget where you stashed your friends!

If you do one thing this new year, take the time to actively read. If you don’t learn from others, what you’re really doing is saying “I have arrived, I know all that I need.”  Where to start? Remember, as you read a book you become more like what the author intends. Why not read a book from Someone who is perfect, actively read the Bible this new year and you’ll become more and more like what that Author intends you to be.

Happy New Year 2014

Part of this post was drawn from a video by a great author I respect, Chris Brady. Check his blog out at http://chrisbrady.typepad.com/

If you want some specifics on active reading, here’s a great one-page resource from Illinois Wesleyan University: http://www.iwu.edu/advising/students/reading_underlining.pdf

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