Focus Questions 1. In the novel, Outliers, the author, Malcolm Gladwell, defines key factors that leads one to be successful. To begin with, Gladwell asserts that “parentage and patronage” are key factors of success (19). In other words, success is measured based on one’s maturity level. For example, a younger child in the same grade level as an older child is more likely to be at a disadvantage because he/sh e lacks the cognitive skills that the older child has developed. Therefore, the older child is placed in a more advanced program,which leads to a higher rate of success because of the opportunities the older child is exposed to (28).
Furthermore, Gladwell claims that people who are blessed with more fortunate upbringings have higher chances of being successful. He emphasizes that individuals with more fortunate circumstances are given more practice time than the less fortunate; the countless hours of practice are a key factor to success (59). Another factor of success is one’s culture. Towards the end of his book, Gladwell provides an justification of how those that are Asian are more likely to succeed because of the legacy from past generations that they have a growth mindset (259).
This legacy and mindset has been developed for a many years; therefore, it is a main contribution to success. According to Gladwell, outliers are not successful because of their mere talents or skills, but rather because of the external societal and cultural factors. 2. Gladwell utilizes multiple comparisons and analogies to provide evidence for his claims. External factors are significant factors in determining one’s success. He proves his claim by using an analogy to compare a successful individual to a seed.
With this analogy, he depicts that the seed grew into a tree with the help of sunlight, soil, water, and absence of lumberjacks and pests (20). It did not grow by itself; similarly, individuals cannot become successful by themselves. The most convincing evidence is when Gladwell utilizes the background stories of successful people to support his claim that individuals do not just rise to success relying on their solely his talents. As he expands his claim, he provides examples of very well-known and successful individuals such as Bill Gates.
Bill Gates’s rise to success stemmed from opportunities that were given to him, which allowed him to strengthen his skills (53). I concur that Gladwell “cherry pick[s]” his evidence. In order to build a strong argument, he utilizes evidence that helps builds his argument. Unfortunately, he fails to mention those who rise to success who are not given opportunists or those who are given opportunities but result as failures. Thus, he does not develop counterarguments to appease the opposition.
3. All outliers share the fact that they seize their opportunities and are successful. According to Gladwell, all outliers generate success because of the opportunities given to them (56). Throughout the novel, Gladwell illustrates how opportunities unlock the doors to success. For example, the Beatles did not simply rise to fame because of their talents. Through connections with the club owner, they were able to practice nonstop when the opportunity was given to them (48). Therefore, with the help of constant practicing, they were able to become one of the greatest bands in history. Another example that Gladwell provides is of the math whiz, Bill Joy.
Joy was able to further his skills because he was able to find a loophole in his school’s computers (45). With this loophole, he extended his limited practice time to unlimited and mastered the skills he needed to. The opportunities given to outliers lead to their success. 4. Being exposed to different opportunities has helped me gain experiences that contribute to my path to success. For example, being given the opportunity to be a part of various sports teams and ASB has allowed me to gain leadership and teamwork skills.
Because of these newfound skills, I create an identity for myself that set me apart from everyone else. These opportunities support Gladwell’s claims. However, in my life, my uncle, a man who gave up all of his wealth in Vietnam for a better life in America, was not given opportunities for an education like me. Instead, he worked as a cook to support his family. He used sheer determination and willpower to work towards becoming successful. Working his way to the top, he now owns a popular Vietnamese restaurant that has branched into many franchises.
He was not given any opportunities; he had to work for his success. 5. What factor of success do you disagree/ agree with the most? Gladwell states that cultural legacies is a key factor toward success (255). This claim is a major overgeneralization. Just because one is a certain ethnicity, it is does generate success. Saying that Asians are more likely to succeed, in my opinion, is a huge stereotype (259). This is like stereotyping all Asians as being good at math. It is not true because everyone is different, whether he/she is Asian, American, African, Hispanic, etc.
Individuals cannot measure their chances of success based on their ethnicity. 5. What other factor(s) does Gladwell not account for that contribute to success? Gladwell claims that opportunities allow individuals to be successful. However, he does not account the fact that the opportunities are meaningless if they choose not to take advantage of them. Simply stated, success doesn’t solely come from opportunities; it results from willpower and action. Gladwell uses Chris Langan, a genius, as an example of one blessed with great knowledge since birth (76).
Gladwell fails to mention how Langan’s determination to further his knowledge and ease his curiosity are key factors that helped him advance. In essence, outliers are successful because of the freewill they are given whether or not to work towards their success. 7. In your opinion, what factor plays the biggest role towards success? In my opinion, I do not concur with Gladwell’s claims; the will one has to succeed is the biggest factor. Admittedly, opportunities breed success, but it is one’s willpower that determines whether or not he/she is truly successful.
For example, if a hockey player is born in January, he/she is supposedly destined for greatness. However, if he/she chooses not to practice hard to work towards being successful, he/ she will ultimately be deemed a failure. To serve as a real life example, Oprah Winfrey, a woman born with no opportunities and under poor conditions, rose to fame through her passion and determination. Her success was not handed to her, she earned it. The freewill to choose the path to success is, in conclusion, the key factor.