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The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Outliers: Section 1 (and my grandfather)


So I began reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell this weekend. I finished the first section and have an opinion about it. The book’s basic premise is that success is a conglomeration of a lot of factors. Some factors are innate, some factors and communal and some factors are just plain luck.

I think a lot of what he says is compelling, in fact I made such an observation a few years ago. In the wake of my grandfather’s death (whose name was Sidney Greenwald) a few years ago much was said about his impact on the world. He touched so many people in so many different ways. He was a builder for so many Jewish institutions and causes. He accomplished so much and anyone who knew him would tell you this.

I always felt that his success was due to his great skill and ability but had a lot to do with the time and place in which he found himself. At that time, mid-20th century, Orthodox Judaism was beginning its renaissance and resurgence in America. It was a time that was perfect for someone with his abilities to shine. He certainly took advantage of his opportunities and made the most of them. But those opportunities do not present themselves to anyone and everyone.

I think people are able to accomplish a great deal with their talents and abilities. The opportunities need to present themselves to make it happen. Sometimes we can create the opportunities and other times we can look opportunities. But many times we just have to wait for the opportunities and be ready to pounce those opportunities when they present themselves.

So I guess I must agree with Gladwell on that point. Timing does make a big difference. The part that I had a harder time digesting was the suggestion that we are all victims of early tracking with no hope to escape the reputation we build for ourselves. Education in this country is suffering but the opportunities for a student who wants to succeed are endless. We suffer more from lack of caring and effort than the tracking in our education system. There are some victims of the tracking but most are victims of their own lack of interest in learning and bad teaching than anything else. The danger of Gladwell’s idea is that it gives excuses to people who are not productive. People don’t need more excuses to do nothing…

I am looking forward to finishing the book soon.

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Filed under: All Posts, Musings & Observations, , , ,

5 Responses

  1. […] column, it seems random and disconnected from today’s news. It did remind me of a couple of posts I had written in the very early stages of this blog. I started this blog in December 2008 and I had […]

  2. […] I blogged about his book Outliers, which was super. Today I am writing about a recent Gladwell column in the New Yorker. I […]

  3. […] I blogged about his book Outliers, which was super. Today I am writing about a recent Gladwell column in the New Yorker. I […]

  4. […] of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. Previously, I have had quite a few Gladwell posts (check those out) on this blog. This is […]

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