I am one of the many people who enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, he is undoubtedly one of the most influential authors in the last few decades. His poignant arguments and narrative genius make him an exceptional writer, or should we say ‘an outlier’ in his field. *pun intended*
His books are reactionary as much as they are rational. He tends to explain away pre-conceived notions and common held beliefs like nobody else. One of my favorite examples is his book ‘Outliers’. In it, he highlights how much of the popular success literature tends to emphasize the ‘individual achievement’ aspect of public figures without taking into consideration the contextual aspects that contributed to that individual’s success.
The author dissects various examples where the main propellant of those ‘famous’ exceptional success stories that deviate from the norm (hence the name of the book) was not necessarily an isolated, individual quality…but a combination of favorable factors in an individual’s environment which provided a clear advantage, and created the conditions for those individuals to stand out from the pack.
An Outlier clearly stands out from the pack
A few lessons that I learnt from the book include
- Do not be quick to praise individual achievement (there are a lot of factors going on in the background that you did not see)
- Do not hold yourself to a higher standard than you should (by comparing your real life with an idealized version of success)
- Do treat yo’ self every once in a while…(that last one is more Parks and Rec).
NO, really, treat yo self!
Treat yo self to wisdom…
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in the book of proverbs chapter 9…where wisdom is personified as a woman who’s preparing a banquet and inviting everyone to join in this ‘soiree’;
” Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved its seven columns.
2 She has prepared a great banquet,
mixed the wines, and set the table.
3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come.
She calls out from the heights overlooking the city.
4 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple.
To those who lack good judgment, she says,
5 “Come, eat my food,
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live;
learn to use good judgment.”…
According to the book of proverbs, having wisdom brings many other benefits with it;
- Improved Quality of Life Proverbs 8:18-20
I have riches and honor,
as well as enduring wealth and justice.
19 My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver!
20 I walk in righteousness,
in paths of justice.
21 Those who love me inherit wealth.
I will fill their treasuries…joyful are those who listen to me,
watching for me daily at my gates,
waiting for me outside my home!
2 Blessings from God Proverbs 8:35
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.
3. Longer Life Proverbs 9:11
“Wisdom will multiply your days
and add years to your life.”
Interestingly, one of the most incredible ‘outlier’ stories is the author of the book of Proverbs…King Solomon was an expert among experts…in pretty much every field and discipline of knowledge;
1 Kings 4:29-34 New International Version (NIV)
29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, …32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
He was clearly the outlier of his time…and he made Israel an ‘outlier’ nation…going from a conflicted and divided socio-political place to one of the most prosperous in its time.
The interesting part is that when I look at Solomon’s life…I do not identify any early contextual advantages like the ones described in Malcolm Gladwell’s stories. He was not given any early access to any type of technology or training, his mother was probably the least ‘worthy’ of all the wives of David…and he was neither the oldest or most charismatic among his David’s children (see 2nd Samuel 14:25).
Solomon is an outlier among outliers, because his context clearly did not provide any type of springboard…what provided the springboard was his wisdom…which was something he asked of God…
1 Kings 3 says;
5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
6 Solomon replied, ….9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!
The best part is that the same asset that God gave Solomon is freely available to everyone …the bible says in James 1:5;
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
So when we think about it, the banquet that wisdom prepares…which is a freely given gift from God…the one we’re invited to, is a banquet fit for a King…so why not treat yo self?