The Predictable Course of Success

Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

…To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success–the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history–with a society that provides opportunities for all.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

The Matthew Effect

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a big bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still–and on and on until the hockey player is a genius outlier. But he didn’t start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Free Speech

We need to return to what were once core values in politics and what remain core values in my profession. Make no mistake, we are in the midst of a war over values. We should fight, and fight hard, for what we believe. But even as we do battle, it’s crucial to recognize the best in the other side and the worst in your own.

~ Heather Gerken, Dean of Yale Law School, “One campus arena where free speech is not up for debate: law schools”, Time Magazine, July 24, 2017

Open Mind

Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.

~ Tom Hanks

Technology and Social Change

To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple. Moreover, we have seen enough by now to know that technological changes in our modes of communication are even more ideology-laden than changes in our modes of transportation. Introduce the alphabet to a culture and you change its cognitive habits, its social relations, its notions of community, history and religion. Introduce the printing press with movable type, and you do the same. Introduce speed-of-light transmission of images and you make a cultural revolution. Without a vote. Without polemics. Without guerilla resistance. Here is ideology, pure if not serene. Here is ideology without words, and all the more powerful for their absence. All that is required to make it stick is a population that devoutly believes in the inevitability of progress.

~ Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business