Photograph: Saeed Adyani/ Netflix

Lesson 1: Success isn’t solely dependent on hard work — Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

In Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, he develops a thesis that says for those who succeed at massive levels he believes that hard work alone won’t get the job done. Hard work coupled with an unpredictable opportunity that is in your environment by chance will be the mixture that propels you forward. The magic number of hours to have under your belt to attain mastery for your specific trade is a mere 10,000 hours Gladwell claims. If you’re lucky enough to catch a massive market shock after you have attained some mastery in a trade that, say, because of the way the market has changed is heavily in demand, you will attain success as that market grows.

Gladwell told the story of how Bill Gates created his computer empire with this formula. Bill Gates was an excellent student at Lakewood Preparatory School up in the Seattle region during the late 60’s. He scored the highest test score in the state for math when he was only in eighth grade for students in eighth through twelfth grade. Lakewood happened to be one of the few schools in the city at the time to have a computer which he, Paul Allen — the late co-founder of Microsoft — and other friends would spend a great deal of their late teenage years on.

The group of boys became so incredibly comfortable programming to the point where local businesses around the Seattle area would seek out their services to fix their business problems. Many of these business and government workers would be shocked to find the people they hired to do the task was a group of high school students. They went about the rest of their high school career working on projects as such and continuing to learn about the inner workings of a computer interface. This in turn exposed them to computers at a very early age right before big technology companies started booming. Gladwell said that Bill Gates’s birth year, the opportunity of going to a school like Lakewood with 24-hour computer access, and the countless hours that he and his friends put into studying computers right before big technology companies started taking off was what led to his success. Anyone who studied computers the way Bill Gates did, but was born 5 years after him, would be too late to capitalize on being first to the frontier of the virgin technology market. Those people ended up just being high level employees for people like Bill.

Gladwell went on to tell other stories of how childhood environment and culture coupled with the timing of a future booming market propelled certain populations forward. He believes that children of Jewish descent born during the Great Depression, like Joe Folm, made phenomenal litigious lawyers in the 1970s when lawsuits started getting aggressive. These lawyers went on to build some of today’s most powerful law firms that serve high profile clients such as major politicians, fortune 100 companies, and entities of the like.

Stories like these are still developing to this day and we have no problem giving people a plaque of success for those who work hard to provide value for us and others. This year specifically we tip our hats to the world’s essential workers and medical professionals as they stepped up to the plate when it mattered most. Businesses and movements which weren’t heard of pre-covid emerged as the social climate of 2020 shook the world’s markets and attention to new products and ideas. What Zoom executive or vaccine maker/scientist/investor that remained loyal to their job or stance for years would have known that a global pandemic would have been their calling to success and wealth?

For me and what I believe to be many people out there, before covid and before reading Outliers, I had the idea that success was overwhelmingly a function of the time you put into it. Granted, Gladwell did say that was a major factor; he made it clear that there were other environmental aspects to those who succeed in the way that Bill Gates and Joe Folm did.

To follow Gladwell’s theory for the upcoming year, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get your toes wet into what you think may be a growing opportunity in the post covid era. Once you find an area of expertise you feel like you can dedicate time to passionately, do just that persistently and wait. Who knows, your big break at Forbes-like success may be right around the corner!

If you want to do the read yourself and learn more about other people who capitalized on their culture and hard work click below to purchase the book!

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Adrian Isaac Jimenez

Adrian Isaac Jimenez

Incoming Federal Consultant at Microsoft. Host of A Casted Pod. Current Business Student at Baylor University