It’s been a while since I’ve had a major braingasm but September just did that for me. The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Gates’ documentary on Netflix Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates had my mind stimulated in ways that I can’t even start to explain. I’ll talk about the book and you’ll just have to watch the documentary.
We’ll start off with the definition of an outlier from the book.
1: Something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.
2: A statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.
To bring it home a little bit when it comes to people it refers to those who have done phenomenal things in their different pursuits. If I would just name a few who fit that definition from my country I would say Eliud Kipchoge, Lupita Nyong’o, Wangari Maathai, just to name a few. The book references Bill Gates, The Beatles among others. It gives an account of the circumstances and opportunities that they all had to get to where they are. I was shocked to learn that Bill Gates started programming when he was 13 years but the story that is often highlighted is that of how he dropped out in his sophomore year to start Microsoft. By the time he dropped out he had been programming for seven consecutive years. (Think about that the next time you decide you want to use that example)
The book sheds light on opportunities that the Outliers had and what comes out clearly is that opportunities are packaged in so many forms. The only differentiating factor is your attitude. One of the opportunities was that the high school that Bill Gates attended had a computer club with a time sharing-sharing terminal and not so many schools had that privilege. The Beatles had performed live an estimated 1,200 times before they got their first break. The book goes on and on with research, facts and data.
It got me thinking about whether I had any tale to tell on an instance of when I seized an opportunity. The one that stands out the most is how I got my first and probably my last job. It my last week in University and I was going to one of the Deans to get cleared. While waiting for her outside her office there was a poster of a career accelerator program called Spire. They taught skills that were prerequisite in the workplace and later hooked you up with an interview. I took a picture of the poster and forgot about it for like two weeks.
After the Christmas holidays I started to get bored because I was not doing much other than bumming. I remembered the poster and applied using the link that was on there. When they didn’t get back to me on the date that they had communicated I called and they gave me an interview date. I guess I didn’t do well on the interview because the programme was supposed to start in a few days and I had not gotten any feedback yet. I called two guys that I had connected with during the interview and they told me that they had received a call back and they were supposed to report on a certain date. If I REALLY want something I usually do whatever it takes and it even shocks me at times. I called Spire again and explained that I really needed to be there and they gave me a reporting date. It was not free but the good thing about my mum is she trusts and supports my decisions even when she doesn’t fully understand what I am doing so she agreed to pay.
After the 6 weeks programme I got a job two weeks later that was supposed to be a 4 month reliever position where I ended up staying for 4 years. The one thing I am sure about is that I don’t interview well so there is a high chance that I would still be unemployed. Moral of the story is that we all have such stories however small that we can draw inspiration from.
Malcolm Gladwell at the end of the book says the Outlier in the end, is not an Outlier. Meaning that there is no magical phenomena behind it. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize the.
We all have what it takes we just to be brave enough to go after what we want. So decide on whether you’ll grab on to that opportunity or whether you’ll watch it pass by and live with regret wondering what if.