English 12 Honors: Outliers Weekend Activity I — Question #1

Respond to one of the three discussion questions from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success in the Leave a Comment Section to the left of the question. Your response must be well written, well edited, and demonstrate critical reading of the text, including some textual support (page number or quote) to receive full credit. Your response should be a short paragraph, and you need to include your full name. Worth 20 points. Due by noon on Saturday, August 2.

You will then respond briefly to one of your classmates’ posts by noon of Sunday, August 3. This is a brief response. Worth 10 points.

Discussion Question #1 (Chapter 1):

Explain the author’s viewpoint regarding “The Story of Success.” Are personal qualities the sole reason one becomes an outlier? Explain your answer providing support from the text.



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About James E. Lang

I'm a high school journalism and English teacher at Floyd Central High School in Southern Indiana. My interests include reading, writing, literacy, politics, the media, issues of faith, and IU basketball...basically, I'll blog about anything and everything. I'm an independent thinker. I respect all viewpoints and opinions and value reasonable discourse and learning about others. I have been a proud public school educator all of my life. The purpose of my blog is to support scholastic journalism, promote literacy and civic engagement, and explore the social, political, and policy issues impacting education.

25 responses to “English 12 Honors: Outliers Weekend Activity I — Question #1”

  1. Kaitlyn Ford says :

    Kaitlyn Ford

    In my opinion, Malcolm Gladwell believes that personal qualities are not the sole reason one becomes an outlier. According to the book, an “Outlier” is someone who is not ordinary and differs from society. Gladwell states “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities” (p.155). This shows that he believes that success can come from hard work, or even just being in the right place at the right time. For example, Bill Joy had a tremendous opportunity to use the computers, that many average kids did not have. It was his motivation and the opportunity that allowed him to be a computer programmer/ scientist. As personal qualities help with becoming an outlier, they are not what can make someone an Outlier.Malcolm Gladwell believes that our culture, descendents, religion and even the year we were born play a huge role in who becomes an outlier and who doesn’t.

    • James E. Lang says :

      A very well-written summary of Gladwell’s central argument, Kaitlyn. For me one of the most intriguing parts of Gladwell’s book was his argument that seemingly unimportant (sometimes random) events actually played an important part in others’ successes. Lang

  2. Hunter Poff says :

    The Author of the book, “The Outliers”, has a viewpoint regarding the story of success based on his family background. In chapter ten, he says how lucky his family was to be. On the bottom of page 285, he says that without the gifts through history people gave his family, his family would not of lived a life of fufillment. Personal qualities are not the sole reason why people become outliers. In chapter two, the book says how it takes 10,000 hours to master something. If a person has a good personal quality, but does not practice at it, then he or she may not become an outlier.

    • Kaitlyn Ford says :

      I agree with Hunter. Gladwell believes that an outlier is someone who is very fortunate or puts forth a tremendous amount of time and hard work. Personal qualities can help someone become an outlier, but it is not the sole reason one becomes an outlier.

  3. Phillip Anson says :

    Phillip Anson
    period 3

    In Outliers Gladwell’s idea on the story of success is not entirely based on personal qualities. Gladwell talks about the importance of timing and opportunities. Gladwell doesn’t believe that success is entirely based on ones capabilities but on how they use the opportunities they were given. He expresses his thoughts on success in his story of bill gates hard work and chance. The quote shows the significance of opportunity and how to abuse the chances you are given.”He was way past ten thousand hours. How many teenagers in the world had the kind of experience gates had” the quote was about Gate’s opportunities such as going to lake side which had open computer terminals and then him being able to join C- Cubed. He then found a job where he gained enough experience to make his own company with a small group that became Microsoft the series of events that Gates had shows that Gladwell believes that success is the ability to utilize and abuse the chances you are given.

    • Eli Anderson says :

      Agreed. If Gates had not had those kinds of experiences at such a young age, it’s more than likely that he would have never created Microsoft and became the wealthy CEO that he was for a significant period of his life. Even though he obviously had some innate talent, it was for reasons out of his control that he became an outlier in today’s society.

    • Madison Costello says :

      I agree with the idea that the way an opportunity is used is just as important as having the opportunities at all. Essentially, if someone like Gates hadn’t had an affinity for computers, those chances would have been lost on him or gone to someone else, and if he still had the passion without the placement, he wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far in the same amount of time and come up short during times of “computer renaissance.”

  4. Maria Wimsatt says :

    Maria Wimsatt: The author’s viewpoint for the “Story of Success” took a turn through the first couple pages of the book. In the end of the chapter, Gladwell argues the point that it is not the talents that make kids unique but where they come from, and what opportunities they were given. Personal qualities are not the sole reason that someone becomes an outlier, Gladwell uses the example of a the tallest tree in the forest, to show the many factors that have a role in success, “The tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because… no lumberjack cut it down before it matured” (Gladwell 19). This illustration shoes that there is more than just the personal qualities that make someone or something unique.

    • Peter Hyle says :

      I think that the metaphor Gladwell uses, in which to compare athletic players to trees in a forest, is a brilliant way to get his point across. It shows that the tallest tree did not just get there because it was always meant to be the tallest tree, but only because it got the most water, sunlight, and had the good luck to not be cut down or had its bark stripped. The most significant example of how it became the tallest tree, to me, would be that there were no other trees big enough to block the sunlight from hitting it. This ties in directly with how the biggest and brawniest hockey players get specialized training based on the fact that they are taller or stronger than the others.

  5. Rebecca Luhrsen says :

    Gladwell expresses plainly in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” that he does not believe outliers gain their success through only their personal qualities: “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities” (Gladwell 155). Various examples throughout the text support this statement. Bill Gates owes his success to the rare opportunities he had as a child to learn and practice programming for long periods of time. Joe Flom had the opportunity to take advantage of a previously underappreciated branch of law because he was born Jewish, and therefore the bigger law firms would not hire him. Both of these men had the personal qualities society deems necessary to become successful, but those qualities alone did not bring them success. They would not be where they are without the opportunities they were given.

    • Sylvia Donovan says :

      Sylvia Donovan; I agree that Galdwell does not believe personal qualities are the only way outliers gain their success. He makes it very clear that the enviroment, oppurtunities and background play a big part in success. He even mentions that parenting style can effect the level of success a person has.

  6. Eli Anderson says :

    While the personal qualities (self-motivation, hard working, cunning, intelligence, etc.) of a successful person are extremely important factors of their success, the “‘ecology’ of an organism”, or as Gladwell puts it, the sunlight, soil, rabbits, and lumberjacks (last paragraph, chapter 2), are even more essential aspects of a successful person’s rise to prosperity.

    For example, we find in chapter 3 that “…there were nearly five and a half times as many Ontario Junior Hockey League players born in January as were born in November” (eighth paragraph). This can mean only one thing: the players born in those months had the advantage of maturity and other factors that often had little to do with their personal qualities. Although these young men did have considerable talent, motivation, and several other elements crucial to their success, most would not have obtained the success that they did without some external help that they could not control.

    • Rebecca Luhrsen says :

      I agree with what Eli has posted. Along with that I connected age cutoff dates in hockey to that of elementary schools, most importantly kindergarten.

      Before I read this book I studied the relative age effect in elementary schools, which Gladwell briefly touched on as well. Studies showed that children who were born closest to the cutoff date for enrollment, and therefore the youngest, seemed to be playing catch up for years. Their social skills as well as cognitive ability were much lower than their older counterparts. Not only did this sometimes filter the older kids into the gifted classes, furthering the gap between them, but In many cases this caused the younger child to feel inferior and discouraged in their learning ability. When in fact the only real difference between that child and the more successful child was his or her age. The social and cognitive factors do tend to even out by the fourth grade but the effects on their attitude towards school and their confidence in themselves do not.

      This aligns with Gladwell’s point that personal qualities alone do not determine if someone becomes an outlier. Some of these children could go on through their entire schooling career in gifted classes, not because they were innately smarter than their counterparts, but rather because they matured and showed their potential earlier.

  7. Elizabeth Knotts says :

    Gladwell states in “Outliers” that success is not determined by personal qualities alone. He first explains some of the many external factors that influence success by making an example of little league hockey (Gladwell, 20). In order to become a professional hockey player, one must not only be good at hockey. Being born in the first few months of the year give kids entering the sport a competitive edge, because it means that they are bigger and tougher than the younger kids. Similarly, ‘practice makes perfect,’ and being one of the first kids to earn a spot on a team allows for more practice than those who were written off in the first season. Practice is crucial to success in every field though, and most outliers are defined by unusual circumstances that allowed them more practice than those who may have been equally talented, intelligent, or mature.
    Elizabeth Knotts

    • Macy Plaiss says :

      I love what Elizabeth is saying here, because she nails all of what Gladwell is talking about through out the book. Yes, someone needs certain personal qualities to become an “Outlier”, but their up bringing, social surroundings, and other seemingly unrelated things matter as well. We often over look how important those things are to someone’s success.

    • John Strobel says :

      I think Elizabeth is right when she says ” outliers are defined by unusual circumstances that allowed them more practice”. Not only did the outliers take advantage of the opportunities they were given but they also didn’t get bored with doing the same things over and over again. They kept striving towards being a master of their craft.

  8. Peter Hyle says :

    In the novel “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author poses many different reasons for each persons success or lack of success. Gladwell argues that it is not personal qualities that make someone great, but rather the opportunities and circumstances that gave them their advantage. Gladwell proves that professional hockey players born in the beginning of the year have more of an advantage than those who are not, simply because the cutoff date is January 1st. Gladwell even goes as far as saying, “Those born in the last half of the year have all been discouraged, or overlooked, or pushed out of the sport.” Pg. 31 By stating this, he is proving that other kids who have the misfortune of being born later in the year do not have the same opportunities given to them, despite whether or not they have the same talent, capability and determination.
    Peter Hyle

    • Phillip Anson says :

      I agree with the statement that success is based on the opportunities that are given. Gladwell stated that it was the willingness of the beetles to practice there 10,000 hours with the opportunity they were given. Opportunities are important but personal traits have to compliment the opportunities for success.

    • Hunter Poff says :

      Also, he talks about the opportunity of Gates in 10,000 hours. He says how the year he was born was one of the best years for the computer age. This is an opportunity Gates needed to be successsful no matter how many hours he had to master it.

    • Grant Anderson says :

      I agree with this and that its not only personality traits but also the opportunities a person is given. People like Bill Gates and Bill Joy were born at the right time and took advantage of the opportunities they were given. The fact that they were also at the right place at the right time, for example Bill Joy was around the computer labs when they were set up.

  9. kileyatchley says :

    Kiley Atchley p1
    In the novel “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about the story of success but uses his own family to tell that story. He talks about how grateful he is for his family and how well off they are. He also talks about how other people helped his family get to where they are today. In chapter two Gadwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master something. If someone has a good personality but has nothing mastered then it doesn’t matter and they aren’t an outlier.

  10. Mary Hayes says :

    In the “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author provides several reasons why a person would succeed or fail to succeed.He states that it is not determined by personal qualities, solely. One example of external factors that he provides is the situation with the Ontario Junior Hockey League ( Gladwell, 20). He emphasizes the importance of timing and opportunities also have a big part in the success of a person. “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities” (Gladwell 155). This shows that Gladwell believes that a little bit of hard work can go a long way. A person can have an amazing personality and not be successful at anything, but not necessarily be an outlier.

    • Charlie Loveall says :

      I agree with the points Mary made on success not being based on personal qualities in this book. Gladwell says over and over in different ways that success in some ways is almost out of our reach and no matter how determined we are to become successful at something if the opportunity is not there then we will have a very hard time becoming successful.
      Charlie Loveall

  11. Aubree Mobley says :

    In “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author says that success is not obtained only by a persons certain qualities and abilities. There has to be opportunity to develop, and pursue the persons strengths in order for them to excel and become an “outlier”. A metaphor Gladwell uses to explain this says, “Biologist often talk about the “ecology” of organism: the tallest oak tree in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured.” (Gladwell, p19-20) He continues throughout the book to tell us about the stories of different people who have, and haven’t, succeeded. In these stories, his opinion on success becomes clear. Gladwell believes that we shouldn’t just always focus on succeeding, and becoming the best at everything, and that the journeys we go on while we make our way to our goal is important too. Society doesn’t always teach us this. Gladwell says, “I will argue that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.” (Gladwell, p.18)

  12. Charlie Loveall says :

    In the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author looks at success in a much different manor than most do in todays world. “More players were born in January than in any other month, and by an overwhelming margin” (Gladwell, 22). Most others would look at the birth dates on the sheet and think it was just a fluke and that it would not play a role in the amount of success a hockey player would or would not have. As we begin to read deeper in the book it is proved that factors like this do play a role in a persons success. Gladwell states many other cases like the one above. Through out the book he talks about factors that play in to success that most overlook. He often emphasizes that timing and opportunity are big parts of success, not always the amount of determination one has toward a certain goal. Gladwell shows through out the book that many little things happen in order for success, and that it is not just based on the person, but the opportunities that they have encountered through out their lives.
    Charlie Loveall

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