Thursday, April 8, 2010


No one -- not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses -- ever makes it alone. …They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." ~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers.

A lot of the stories in this book brought to mind a passage from 1 Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” David would never have been a hockey star. He was the youngest brother. The smallest. The older boys would have been the one to get the extra coaching and training because people saw something special. They saw strength and coordination. Little did they know there was a giant slayer in that little shepherd!

It made me wonder whom I have cheated of success because I did not give the gift of opportunity. Who could have been a great friend if I could have overlooked our initial personality or preference differences? Whom could I have mentored if I could have seen beneath the surface?

But looking back is silly. So instead, I’m turning those thoughts forward.

Am I willing to “bite deep into a welcoming land and work like a madwoman at what I know?” That’s the legacy that built the fashion and law moguls of New York. They had parents that took what they knew and rocked it. It wasn’t a glamorous skill. For some it was as simple as making aprons. But they were faithful. They didn’t wish for a different talent. They didn’t begrudge their limitations or the opportunities they didn’t have. (Ok, they might have. But that didn’t stop them.) They worked hard. And their examples and core values helped the successive generations to become superstars.

I may think my talents are far too ordinary to be life changing. But if I’m willing to put those thoughts aside and just work hard at what I know, maybe I can give someone the opportunity they need to be an Outlier.  Who knows, maybe those investments and interactions will help me too.  To see the world in a way I couldn't before.

That’s my challenge to you today: Give the gift of opportunity.

** Edit **
What exactly is an "Outlier?"  It could be defined as "an observation that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs."  But I borrowed the term from the book of the same title by Malcolm Gladwell.  He uses it to describe people that fall outside the normal realm of success, whether they may be Bill Gates, the Beatles, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mozart, or professional hockey players.


  1. Giving the gift of opportunity sounds like a great challenge. But, i do have a question ~ what's an "outlier" and why would someone want to be one. I even looked it up and I don't quite get it.

    Of course, I am pretty old......
    : )

  2. Sorry to throw you a curve ball! It's a borrowed term from Malcolm Gladwell for people who are abnormally successful in their chosen field.

  3. This is definitely a great view to take from Gladwell's book. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it it very true - WE can be the ones to give those opportunities to others.