This week, we wrap up the critique of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell by discussing how to truly become an outlier.
A Review Of Outliers
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Overall, I found Outliers to be an important and worthwhile book. Gladwell is correct about humility, gratitude, and empathy:
- We need to be humble about our success
- We need to be grateful for what we have
- We need to be empathetic towards those who are trying
However, Gladwell provides the same trite arguments about individual achievement. Gladwell does not stand up for the individual. He sees personal success as a fluke or a by-product of society’s mercy.
Therefore, Gladwell is incorrect in the following:
- Society does not provide individuals with success. It is individuals who work, think, and succeed – not the collective.
- Determinism will trap people by preventing personal progress. Gladwell is incorrect in advocating for a mindset that promotes and embraces determinism.
- We should not envy the success of others. The most significant stain on Gladwell’s work is his suffocating guilt, shame, and envy. These negative feelings permeate throughout Outliers and reveal the real motive behind the work. However, instead of envying those who are successful, individuals should create successes based on the goals we set for ourselves.
Lastly, Gladwell does not go into too much detail as to how you, as the reader, can become an outlier. Therefore, let’s make up for the deficiency in his work. Today, we’re going to discuss what it takes to become an outlier.
How to become an outlier
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” – Carl Sagan
Overall, you have to accept responsibility for your life if you want to become an outlier. Your upbringing and culture can limit your decisions if you let them. However, your life is yours and yours alone. Therefore, you are the writer of your destiny.
Furthermore, you must think critically about what is the “norm” before breaking away from that norm. In our present culture, the norm is to be in debt, accept the bullshit of the elites, and never question the negative consequences of our personal actions. Additionally, the norm is to be ungrateful, whiny, and demanding while making excuses for personal failings.
Today, let’s investigate how you can break away from the norm and become an outlier.
You Must Choose Your Path, Determine your Identity, and Embrace your Legacy
You define your life, not the church, not the state, not your family. As the author of your destiny, you must determine what your life goal will be. From here, you have to define your identity and embrace your legacy. Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish and how much blood, sweat, and tears will it take to get there?
Your life is your own, and to be an outlier, you must own it. Most people are zombies waiting to be told what to do. They are afraid of chasing their dreams, even for thirty minutes a day. You have to be different.
The experts work over 10,000 hours to master their skills. They combine these skills and build unique talent stacks. With their talents and abilities in hand, they shape the world as they want it to be.
However, if you want to be like Gladwell, then focus on complaining. Highlight the disparity in economic class structures or whine about how “lucky” successful people are. Or, you could roll up your sleeves, fight your narcissism, and get to work — your choice.
Be An Outlier By Advancing Your Skills, Job, and Habits
“The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.” – Robert Greene
However, to do the best you want, you have to work as hard as you can. Dominating your day involves setting realistic goals, developing better habits, and finding ways to innovate.
Gladwell and others like him believe the system is rigged. Of course, it is. It’s rigged for the elected elites, their corporate cronies, and the voters who worship at their feet. Therefore, you need to work hard to establish your path. You can only create your way by dominating your habits and building your skills.
What does your path look like? That’s up to you. You can excel in the corporate environment or leave to strike it out on your own. However, you cannot become better by sitting around and doing nothing.
As an Outlier, you must Keep Yourself Well And Healthy
Get in shape. Get some sleep. Eat three balanced meals. Reject negative people, emotions, and ideas. Keep your stress levels down by getting rid of stressors and problems.
In order to excel, you have to improve your health. You can’t be your best self if you’re incapable of conquering stairs. You can’t focus on improving your life if you can barely keep your eyes open.
Gladwell doesn’t touch on health much in his book. But in a country of out-of-shape, whiny, pill-popping people, you can be an outlier by improving your physical wellbeing.
You must be kind to others and help those who are improving themselves
In a time of utter contempt for differing opinions, you can be an outlier by remaining emotionally stable and intellectually consistent. Now, I’m not saying you forego having an opinion. I am arguing that you do not dehumanize your opponents.
I’ve dedicated more than a few blog posts to criticize Malcolm Gladwell’s position, but I have not denied his humanity or insulted him. Gladwell is an individual deserving of respect, decency, and consideration. I cannot and should not, dismiss him easily or reduce his humanity.
We must all do the same. We are drowning identity politics from people too eager to attack others for arbitrary reasons. You can step outside of such barbarism by treating everyone, including your political enemies, with human decency.
Maturity in the face of disagreement is not easy. However, being a good person is not meant to be easy. If you want to be an outlier, you have to rise above the noise. Give opponents the benefit of the doubt, focus on attacking their ideas, and never reduce your intelligence by engaging in identity politics.
Accept that you have to work hard to achieve what is meaningful
If you want to live a meaningful, productive life, then you have to fight. There are no easy solutions to becoming a better person. If you’re going to grow and improve, you have to suffer and deal with discomfort.
Therefore, focus on aligning your life towards virtue. If you don’t have answers to everything than reflect on what is good and noble. Always ask questions about your actions: “Is this frugal?” “Am I being generous?” “Can I better express my gratitude?” “Am I strengthening my character?” and so on.
To be an outlier is to fight for what is meaningful at the expense of what is comfortable. If you want to follow Gladwell’s path, you’ll spend your days looking at the elites with envy in your heart. However, if you want to be an outlier, then embrace virtue and become an individual.
Only virtuous people can be outliers
“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so fuckin’ heroic.” – George Carlin
As I’ve outlined before, Gladwell is a determinist who believes your upbringing and culture determines your path in life. He highlights successful people who were already privileged as a means of supporting his argument. Of course, Gladwell does not discuss individuals who rose from relatively nothing to become successful.
This oversight is the biggest disappointment in the book. Gladwell cannot shake his envy, determinism, or collectivism. Thus, he leaves individuals lost. Gladwell doesn’t provide any tools to help struggling individuals overcome their flaws to become outliers. Instead, he tells them they cannot be outliers.
Because of where I was raised, I should have a criminal record, been in a gang, or dead. Based on my skin color and upbringing, my political views should align with mainstream liberalism. As a college grad, I should be thousands of dollars in debt. As an American, I should be popping pills, obese, or suffering from some preventable ailment. Because of my community, my religion of choice should be Southern Baptist. There are many cliches I should be following because of my upbringing.
Become an Outlier: Individualism is the only way people can help themselves
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” – Bruce Lee
However, I am an individualist. I do not embrace the path set before me by my culture, upbringing, and society. I am an outlier.
You can become an outlier as well. Please stop looking at the rich and famous. You don’t have to make money or gain fame to be someone “special” or unique. Today, right now, you can end your family’s history of alcoholism. Today, right now, you can take control of your finances and refuse to buy shit you don’t need. Today, right now, you can give even a few dollars a month to a charity of your choosing. Today, right now, you can reject the evils of collectivism and start viewing people as individuals worthy of your respect and decency. Today, right now, you can climb out of your self-hatred by embracing responsibility for the beautiful life you have been given.
Become an individual. Live the life you wish to live.
- Do you want to be an outlier? Why or why not?
- What’s one extraordinary thing you can do right now which no one else around you is doing? For example, is there a story idea you have which no one else has capitalized on? Or, is there a responsibility others have neglected to embrace?
- If you read Outliers, what did you think of it?
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – The book which serves as the inspiration for this three-part series.
- Excel at your job instead of complaining about it:
- Get out of debt and leave the normal life behind:
- Take better care of your health:
- Understand your past, excel in the present, and create your future:
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.