Youthful Reflections on Faith

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Redefining Success: Is it in the genes or just a matter of luck?

Outliers (book)

Outliers (book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book Review


[Outliers: The Story of Success]


Malcolm Gladwell

Hachette Book Group, Inc (2008)

Tagged as a #1 international bestseller and justifiably so. It is a very thought provoking book, and relatable in so many ways.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the stories of extraordinary people (outliers) from different areas of expertise & parts of the world. Their stories have a similar trend – utilising available life opportunities & demonstrating some effects of legacies particularly those of cultural origin, whether consciously or unconsciously.

All of the stories were taken from extensive researches as well as real life examples, the author’s life story included. He wrote about all – star soccer and hockey players, Bill Gates and other high profile experts from various fields.

The author redefined success as not being solely about aptitude but rather about an inter connection of some concepts and principles. These include advantages of time & location, social structures, opportunities, attitude, consistency, partaking in meaningful activities, hard work, traits of people such as communication etc.

Gladwell’s style of writing was quite familiar, after having read another of his book, ‘Tipping point’ earlier, but the write – up remained engaging throughout and full of surprises. His use of various forms of research data such as dates, charts and reconstruction of real life conversations was appealing.

It was an interesting bonus reading about the author’s personal background in the final section; And how he tied his roots, nurturing, experiences, opportunities, skills to his  achievements.

The author concluded on the note that ”The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all’. (p.334)

An example of cultural legacy as found in the principle of hard work, excellent planning and cooperation of the Chinese rice farmers was captured in some Chinese peasant proverbs. My favourite was ”No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.” (p.278).

This was so profound 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.

Also following the prophetic saying which encourages ”taking advantage of 5 things before 5 others”, we understand that ‘youth hood’ is the ideal period for nurturing the mind and body to accomplish greater things.

”Outliers” carries profound lessons for every young person, parent, guardian and educator. What better time to inculcate good habits of worship, seeking knowledge, and building a good character! Imagine nurturing a lifestyle around knowledge & worship with 10,000 hours of practice. The importance of investing the period of childhood and youth to developing fine skills, character and qualities can easily be seen.

Other lessons are how parents can imbibe their savvy sense into the upbringing of their young ones and build them up on the culture of hard work and discipline. For those with a high degree of aptitude, such attitude of wisdom is needed to attain balance in the world for success. 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 thinking that success is within an easy grasp.

Well it certainly won’t be an easy reach, but with the right combination of attitude and dedication, we can start our journey too. Who can say where we will be after putting in most of our 10,000 hours of practice.

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

If it’s not necessarily the brightest who succeed, as the stories and research figures showed, what excuses do we 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 put our trust in our Creator. This trust is a much needed resource that comes with faith. So let’s seek it, utilise and treasure it.

Our definition of success will determine how far we are willing to go to reach our 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.

Success for all believers come from correct worship to attain the pleasure of our Creator and attaining the best of this world and the hereafter. Faith is the gift that spurs success. And included in this faith package is correct knowledge, understanding, practice and action.

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.

4 Success lessons for every Ambitious person

1. Success is not by accident and also not merely based on luck.

2. Success goes beyond making money and amassing qualifications;  It is what you define it as.

3. Look closely at your culture and inheritance for merit able values and possibilities, for that could be a key to unleashing your success factor.

4. There are no hard and fast rules to success; The web of opportunities are many for the wise ones.


Do you have what it takes to be an achiever, a success, an outlier? Are you willing to explore what you have?

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