Thoughts Stemmed from Reading Outliers (Part One)

Outliers is a book that attacks the norm of thinking that glorifies the “Grass to Grace” stories we all love to hear so much. It also attacks the belief that an individual, through hard work and determination, can battle against all odds and achieve his dreams and goals. That’s a very cinematic notion and I’m sure it has sold several movies and books.

The problem? You just don’t get anywhere just by hard work and determination. Remember the saying that no man is an island? Too many factors are in a success story. Even factors as little as date and location of birth add up to many of the success stories we may have heard, even in passing.

Growing up in a Christian household and going to church almost every Sunday of my life, not to mention other programmes and being surrounded with predominantly Christian people, I’ve been fed the notion that you can be nothing without God paving a way for you. This can be debatable due to the fact that several successful people we know are atheists or agnostic at best, but the Christian argument is that nothing happens without God’s permission so we can justify that for now.

The point I’m trying to make with the last paragraph is the fact that no one rises from the ashes to the heavens, so to speak without some sort of help in some way is not a new idea to me. So far, in the book I’m seeing facts that are astonishing, yes but it’s not really new to me that for you to be successful, you need opportunities. Opportunities can either be made for you by a wealthy background, or by just several strings of good fortune happening to you.

The God factor and Luck. Not necessarily the same thing, but both show that there is a lot more to success than hard work. That’s why you can have several seemingly untalented (or less talented) people making waves and immensely talented people revolving around the same spot for years. Take the music industry for example. You can hear a lot of what you’d classify as “trash” and be confused as to why that guy in your school, or neighbourhood isn’t on that same pedestal, seeing as he is just as talented, probably even more.

I’m at that point in my life where I’ve started to question everything I’ve been taught and start to pick and choose which fantasies make sense and which ones I should discard. What I really believe and what I don’t. The easy truth is not everyone is going to be “successful”. The hard truth is whether or not I would be one of them. What effort is worth investing?

Speaking of investing, I’m no stranger to people like Robert Kiyosaki. These people tell you how to wisely spend your money. Being young, it’s easy to swallow a lot of what these people say. Invest money in this, move in that direction, get out of the rat race, you can grow to be rich. The problem is, no one tells you that you actually need to have a substantial amount of money for investments to actually mean anything. No one makes the case for the young Nigerian man or woman who not only has to face the issues of a Nigerian life, but also has to play “Daddy” for their parents and younger siblings. The rest of the money is barely enough to keep them afloat. How in the world would such people be able to “save” and “invest” in their current situation? That’s obviously a pipe dream.

Outliers makes a case for hard work too. People are great because they put in the work, yes. But have you ever written an exam in which you studied hard for and didn’t pass as much as someone who didn’t put in as much effort? Yes, hard work is obviously important but . . .

What exactly is it that you’re working hard in? Is it important? Is it a waste of time? Is it on the verge of being obsolete?

What opportunities are you getting (or would you get) in order to display that hard work?

What opportunities are you getting in order to even discover what exactly is it you need to work hard in?

I’m still working out the kinks in what I believe and what I don’t but a key part in being successful is the willingness to put in work and keep pushing, but to also have an open mind to whatever comes your way before you choose to discard it. You can’t do that if you don’t believe to a certain extent that your efforts would amount to something(or you could just be in it for the fun, who knows). You also can’t climb the metaphorical ladder without investing time in the right things, with the right places, and with the right people, either by luck, trail and error, or some sort of guidance.

And if you’re going to learn from the success stories of others, at least study several other factors in their lives, like location and opportunities they got and try to localise it and see how it can apply to you before you digest it.

I choose to continue believing I would be successful. I just don’t know what would get me there yet.

I started reading Outliers today and I’m done with the second chapter. I felt the need to jot things down and that’s how this started. I intend for it to be a short series of things I notice, my thoughts and conclusions till I’m done with the book. Stay tuned for the next part.

Still figuring out a lot of things in my life, like what exactly I'll use this "Medium" to do.