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Welcome to the Success Lottery! A short review of Gladwell’s “Outliers”.

In his new book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell debunks the common belief that being a hard working genius is all it takes to be exceptionally successful.

Looking into fields as diverse as Canadian (Ice) Hockey, M&A Lawyers in NYC, and PC Tycoons – he discovers two things: (1) Yes, it takes about 10.000 hours of practice to become good at anything. If you’re not willing to spend that, don’t even flirt with the spotlight. But it is (2) the sheer luck of being born at the right time and the cultural capital of one’s community that creates the foundation on which everything else stands.

While being fantastically entertaining, Gladwell can therefore offer very little on how to be successful yourself. Because you just can’t go back to be born in 1955, and become like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (both born in 1955). The good part: You also can’t go back and become like Steve Ballmer (Born in 1956). ;-)

Reading “Outliers” from the perspective of an advertising guy offers an interesting view onto a very special set of ideas. At the core of all those successful microcultures that Gladwell describes, we find ideas that will travel – not from neighbor to neighbor, but from generation to generation. I’m quite sure, if we look at the most resilient brands, we will discover the same: Culture-creating ideas that transcend generations of marketing executives and ad agencies.

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