Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestsellers “The Tipping Point” and “Blink,” has penned a fascinating study of success.  The title “Outliers” refers to people who are outside the norm. Here is the basic point:  Success in life is more than talent and drive.  It includes other, less obvious, factors.  For example, Bill Gates was a gifted intellect.  But he was also born in the right year, 1955, and his junior high happened to have computer access long before most 13-year-olds had access to a computer.  (There are about eight “lucky” breaks contributing to Gates’ success.)  Success includes talent.  But it also requires opportunity.

 The best hockey players in Canada are born in January-March.  Because January 1 is the cut-off date for a given age group, a five-year old born January 5 will probably be larger than a five-year old born December 20 of the same year.  He will get more playing time, he will get promoted to better teams, he will get the best coaching, he will be more likely to make the NHL.  He would have to have talent.  But he was also born early in the year.

One interesting anecdote that emerges is the 10,000 hour rule.  It seems that 10,000 hours of practice is needed to achieve mastery in almost any field.  For example, the Beatles played together incessantly in clubs in Hamburg to get their 10,000 hours.  Bill Gates got his 10,000 hours of programming in far sooner than most because he had computer access.

“Outliers” is a fascinating study.