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[Book Review]: Outliers – The Story of Success

[Book Review]: Outliers – The Story of Success

A Book Review
of
[Outliers: The Story of Success]
by Malcolm Gladwell
Hachette Book Group, Inc (2008)

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”The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all”.
Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s book covers stories of extraordinary people (outliers) from different areas of expertise across the globe. Their stories have a similar trend – utilising available life opportunities & demonstrating some effects of legacies including those of cultural origin, whether consciously or unconsciously – to attain success.

All of the stories were taken from extensive researches as well as real life examples, the author’s life story included.

The author described success as being beyond aptitude; and more about an inter connection of various concepts and principles. These principles include advantage of time & location, social structures, opportunities, attitude, consistency, partaking in meaningful activities, hard work, traits of people such as communication etc.

It was an interesting bonus reading about the author’s personal background in the final section. He managed to tie his roots, nurturing, experiences, opportunities & skills to his  achievements.

He looked at different cultural legacies, one of such is the example of the Chinese rice farmers who nurtured principles of hard work, excellent planning and cooperation. The farmers’ principles were captured in some peasant proverbs. A striking one from such proverbs was ”No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.” (p.278).

This was very profound for me because the night prayer (Tahajjud) which is highly recommended for Muslims obviously comes with many bonuses, apart from that of the blessings of worship. One of which is the blessings of the early part of the day, as many who experience it will testify because it allows them to accomplish a lot compared to waking up later in the morning.

Following the prophetic saying which advices ”taking advantage of 5 things before 5 others”, we understand that one’s youth is the ideal period for nurturing the mind and body to accomplish greater things.

I recommend ‘Outliers’ to every youth because it carries profound success lessons for young minds.

What better time in life to inculcate good habits of worship, seeking knowledge, and building good character!

Imagine nurturing a lifestyle around knowledge & worship with some 10,000 hours of practice. The importance of investing the period of childhood and youth to developing fine skills, character and qualities can quite easily be understood from this principle of  practise.

Other lessons to be drawn are how the youth can imbibe a savvy sense into their lifestyle through building appropriate skills; and nurturing the culture of hard work and discipline. For those with a high degree of aptitude, such attitude of wisdom is needed to attain balance for success in both worlds.

It is a lesson for every young person to work hard, and prevail in their area of interest or a particular field of knowledge rather than expecting quick get rich formulas for success.

And since success was described as following a ‘predictable course’, perhaps we can all take comfort in knowing that success is within an easy grasp. Study the seerah of the most successful man who ever lived – Muhammad (saw) and begin building valuable and much needed skills such as leadership and communication skills.

Well it certainly won’t be an easy journey or simple goal, but with the right combination of attitude and dedication, you can start on your journey today. Who can say where you will be after putting in 10,000 hours of practice.

The question is, are you ready for such a commitment?

If it’s not necessarily the brightest who succeed, as the stories and research figures showed, what excuses do you have left.

Not too many I believe!

We can all be successful if we learn the patterns of this ‘predictable course’, keep working hard and seek every opportunity available while putting our trust in Allah (swt) That trust is a much needed foundation that comes with being a Muslim.

So let’s learn to seek it, utilise and treasure it.

Your definition of success will determine how high your goals are and how far you are willing to go in order to attain those goals. If it is beyond simple worldly goals, popularity and accolades, then every road block would be a minor distraction rather than a time for giving up.

And as the author reiterated, there are no short cuts to success, no mysterious routes or outside of ordinary experiences; rather it a net product of many principles all found in the simple reality of our everyday living.

Success for believers come from having correct intention for all actions, correct worship to attain the pleasure of our Creator and attaining the best of this world and the hereafter. Islam is the gift that spurs that success.
And the main instructions included in the manual of this gift package is sincere intention, correct knowledge, understanding, practice and action.

Re.thinking Success
– Success is not by accident and also not merely based on luck.
– Success goes beyond making money and amassing qualifications;  It is what you define it as; and tied to your values, principles, goals and vision.
– Look closely at your culture and inheritance for merit able values and possibilities, for that could be a key to unleashing your success factor.
– There are no hard and fast rules to success; The web of opportunities are many for the wise ones.
– Success for the believer is not aimed at this temporary world alone but rather a means of attaining success in the next world ultimately – Allah’s pleasure and Jannah (paradise).

Are you willing to explore what you have to become an achiever, a success & ultimately an outlier? Share your thoughts below.

photo credit: Myles! via photopin cc

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