Friday, December 04, 2009

On success

Reading 'Outliers' by Malcom gladwell.

It kinda answered or even confirmed something that I'd known all along. That it's not how well you do academically that determines your success in life. I have friends who were bigshots in studies(I too was one of them). They are nothing more than moderates, as far as career success goes. And there are a few 'outliers', some who didn't even go to school back then. They have more financial and social success than the high iq guys. It's not just the 'normal intelligence' that counts but the 'practical intelligence'--how you make sense of the world around and how well you can navigate it--that determines financial/social success.

Of course, it's never too late to gain practical intelligence. Gladwell pins it down to your upbringing, to the environment in which you grew up. I don't agree completely. I guess, your environment does play a role in shaping your personality. But you can always outgrow it, create your own inner models, on your own understand how the world works and adapt to it.

Then you wonder why people give so much importace to academic success. I see kids around being pushed too far into studies, the achievement of some high-fliers constantly glorified, etc. You don't need a book like outliers to tell you that what you learn in school/college is just one part, that there are a hundred other factors required for success. It's plain commonsense. How come people don't exercise it? Are they too dumbed down and stuck in the old paradigm which shaped their lives? Why is our vision so narrow?

Of course, there's a far more important question that arises? What the hell is this thingy called success? Your paycheck? What people around think about you? Your bank balance?

Or is it the opportunity to be what you've always wanted to be? To exercise your creativity? To constantly learn new things and enrich your understanding? To love and be loved? To explore new paradigms? To experience the diversity this life offers? To have the freedom to live life the way you want to? To make things happen, to teach, to share?

Or simply to be at peace...contented? Reminded of a passage from 'The power of now' where Eckhart tolle writes of his state of mind after his first experience of transcendence. 'For two years, I was sitting on park benches, without money, without social identification but I was in the most indescribable state of bliss'

Maybe success is a curious mix of all of the above. Or maybe, it's just subjective. I could consider myself successful but you may see me as someone who's totally fucked up. Or rubbish my idea of success. For all I care.

This book is already a best seller. Does that make Malcom gladwell a successful person? In the narrow definetion which he espouses in his book---Yes..... But in the bigger picture?


  1. My definition of success (which unfortunately I never achieved) is to be doing something you love and to be recognized for doing it very well. A paycheck is necessary, but as long as it is enough live on... One idea in Gladwell's book was that luck plays an important role as well.

  2. What Gladwell calls as Luck, we call it as Karma. The conditions will be favourable but the individual still has to make efforts to achieve prosperity.
    Gladwell seems to get it backwards when he says that, out of a bunch of people who make effforts, the ones with the most favourable conditions achieve success.

  3. we go with Tabor in definition

    we Love to read your thoughts and understandings.
    Take care.