Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

10,000 Hours – Deliberate Practice – Opportunities – Relative Age Effect (RAE)

Outliers was published in 2008, it gained immediate success debuting at number 1 on the bestseller list at the New York Times.

Malcolm Gladwell conveys an intriguing investigation into the ‘Outlier’, which in simplistic terms is defined as anyone that stands out (an anomaly) from the rest of society.

Using plenty of interesting examples, Gladwell, in essence, attempts to dispel the myth that success is primarily based on talent, rather highlighting effort, application, opportunities, timing and luck as crucial elements of success.

Albeit not his own theory, he uses the 10,000 hours principal to quantify just how long it takes to become an expert or master at something. For instance, in football this equates to around 20 hours per week for 10 years.

Gladwell is careful to point out that it is not simply 10,000 hours of practice, but ‘deliberate’ practice that is required. It is within the focused deliberate practice environment that a person is able to constantly work on addressing and correcting errors and failures.

On a side note, if you haven’t heard of The Dan Plan (www.thedanplan.com), take a look at the video below, quite a fascinating real life experiment on the 10,000 hours theory.

Additionally, the persons’ mentality is central, needing an extraordinary desire, determination and passion to strive forward.

Gladwell goes on to suggest that even with all this effort and application, one of the secret ingredients to success is opportunity and luck. For instance, using a fashionable example, Gladwell describes how a young Bill Gates was fortunate to have access to a computer terminal connected to a mainframe when he was a teenager. This was apparently the only of its kind in the USA at that time, therefore providing Gates the opportunity to practice computer coding much more frequently than others.

The other well-liked anecdote is the January effect in youth development, which is often described as the Relative Age Effect (RAE) in football circles. Gladwell points out that a majority of Canadian Ice Hockey players are born in Jan, February, March and April. He suggests this is due to these players having a natural advantage of being older than their peers. He goes on to propose that older players have more chance of being selected in representative teams, thus getting access to better coaching and further developmental opportunities, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Outliers is not a new book, there have been many follow-up theories, research and progress since this book was first published. For example, nowadays many youth development programs (in many sports) around the world are finding innovative solutions to deal with the issues associated with the relative age effect.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read Outliers yet, it’s definitely well worth the investment.

Posted on by Football Technical Lab in Philosophy Comments Off on Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell