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Book Review for Teens: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This inspiring look at successful people throughout history will give adults and teenagers a new look on hard work and how to view their own goals and successes. A good read for anyone who wants to get motivated to get out there and repeat that success.


ADULT REVIEW | by Maggie Baird

My favorite books are the ones that change the way you see the world. And Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is just such a book. It changed a lot of my perceptions regarding our individual paths to success and creative fulfillment, and those of our children.

In Outliers, Gladwell challenges the traditional idea that success in one’s chosen career is solely based on hard work and “the cream rising to the top” phenomenon. Instead, he cites statistics and historical references to analyze the elements that contributed to the achievements of some of our most successful artists, thinkers, scientists, and business people.

Gladwell takes us through an explanation of how the opportunities that presented themselves to these individuals and groups had as much to do with coincidence of time and place, birthdates, and connections as they do with talent.

But it isn’t just external elements that create outliers. Gladwell also focuses on individual contribution to success. This includes the somewhat shocking number of hours (approximately 10,000) that it takes to become masterful in a given area.

As a parent, some of this information gave me pause. For example, I grew up an avid skier in Colorado. Based on my children’s physicality and coordination, I think they would be excellent skiers, too. Maybe even world class racers. However, having parents who are actors and live in California provides neither the locale nor the means to ski at all. Cross that future off their list.

On the other hand, we are artists and live in a major city. So they have been afforded some pretty incredible opportunities—some of which seem to be playing right into their interests and talents. So as I lie awake at night, I try to take comfort in that.

The best part of reading Outliers was watching the way it affected my son Finneas, who was reading it at the same time. Instead of focusing on any areas in which he might have less advantage, he was hugely inspired by the individuals and groups (The Beatles, Bill Gates, etc.) Gladwell writes about in the book and the incredible amount of focused practice and hard work that they put into action.

I highly recommend reading this book and encouraging your teens to read it, too. It will give you lots to talk about.

Maggie Baird is an actress. She has appeared on many TV shows, including The X-Files, Six Feet Under, and Chicago Hope, and is a well-known voice-over artist (she’s Samara in Mass Effect). Baird is also a singer/songwriter and she co-wrote and starred in the award-winning independent movie Life Inside Out.


TEEN REVIEW | by Finneas O’Connell

I read Outliers when I turned 16, and it changed the way I approach each day.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is a study of the cause and effect of greatness. The book documents many unique cases of mastery. It hypothesizes that in order to truly be a master in any field, one must have devoted around 10 years and at least 10,000 hours to that field. Subjects in this book include my favorite band, The Beatles; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; the “smartest man in the world” Chris Langan; physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; and countless others. I found each story in the book to be totally fascinating, compelling, and inspiring. And of course, the stories are all true.

The book talks about the two primary keys to success: the hard work put in and the opportunity to work hard.

For example, if you want to be a competitive gymnast, you have to practice and train all the time. But you also need to live close to a gymnasium. And you should have a support system of parents and coaches who are willing and available to help you. We may not have control over the latter aspect, but we can fulfill our part by seizing every opportunity and being prepared.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for motivation to work hard at the thing they love to do, or to anyone interested in finding out more about the history of some of the great creators of our time. The stories of the Beatles and Bill Gates, fascinating tales of successful hockey players, and the flawed hierarchy and cockpit culture of Korean Air pilots make this a great read.

The night I finished this book, I wrote “10,000 hours” in Sharpie above my door.

Every morning it’s the first thing I see, and it inspires me to get up and work hard.

Finneas O’Connell is an actor and musician. He has appeared on Glee and Modern Family and starred as Shane in Life Inside Out. O’Connell is also lead singer/songwriter for The Slightlys.

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