Malcolm Gladwell

Book Reviews

Review of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell This was a very interesting book that I'd recommend to anyone because it examines how success is achieved or not achieved based on cultural and historical legacies that people have access to. The premise of the book provides an intriguing look at how success is achieved as well as a ways to look at one's own heritage to capitalize on historical and cultural traits which can help a person find meaningful success. I definitely recommend reading this as an example of how a person's sense of individuality is ultimately based off a collective history and heritage as opposed to the myth of the rugged individual.

5 out 5

Seeking the Spirit of the book of Change by Zhongxian Wu

In this book, the author presents an explanation of the divinatory system of the i-ching and classic Taoist techniques for understanding and utilizing that system. The case studies he provides are very helpful for understanding how the divinatory system works, but be warned, you do need to have more than a basic familiarity with the concepts he discusses to get the most out of this book. While I definitely could understand what he was writing about, I know I'd need to do more research on the i-ching before being comfortable with this divination system. That said, this book does provide an excellent read and opportunity to learn more about the i- ching

5 out of 5


Cultural identity shifts

I talked about family identity and  individual identity patterns in my last post, but in Outliers, Gladwell also discusses cultural patterns and heritage and how it can impact the way people work together, how well they learn particular subjects. Of course this has all been written about elsewhere as well, but the focus in Gladwell's work is particularly relevant to my own identity work, because he discusses how cultural patterns of identity can be shifted by introducing alternate cultural patterns of identity, especially through language. The case study he provides, where Korean pilots were trained to speak English as the first part of a rigorous change in how they flew airplanes is really interesting, because it shows how the introduction of a different language successfully allowed the pilots to, while flying the airplane, get away from cultural memes that actually hindered their communication when flying the planes before. Basically written within any language is the cultural memes that accompany the language. If you want to change those cultural memes, or cultural identity, introducing another language, with its cultural identity can be a useful way to do so. Language is the obvious route for this kind of identity work, but from personal experience, I've also found that studying another culture's practices and integrating those practices (spiritual in my case) into your life can be a useful method of shifting your cultural identity. This is also true with subculture identities as well, and even "class" identities, though social class is just another form of subculture identity. If you can successfully integrate cultural practices from a different subculture identity than your own, you can use those practices to break out of your cultural identities. In fact, I think they could also be useful for helping you break out of family identity patterns. Certainly some of the wealth magic work has involved utilizing different cultural identity patterns from other subcultures outside of the ones I'm familiar with. Those identity patterns have been useful for changing many of my beliefs about finances, networking, small business development etc. Of course by using different cultural identities, I end up assuming those identities...but it's also made it easier to resist family identity patterns that continue to believe in identity structures that are less healthy for my entrepreneurial work.

The cultural identity shift is a larger identity shift, a backdrop against which family and individual identity shifts also occur. They are easier to enact on a personal level than family identity shifts, because they don't have the same type of history on a personal level. But I suspect they can help create momentum to enable family identity shifts as well. Unfortunately to prove some of that would ultimately involve several generations of family after myself and since I don't plan to have kids, it may not be so easily proven. Regardless, I can at least continue to explore how my own integration of entrepreneurial cultural practices as well as Taoist and Buddhist cultural practices contributes to the shifting of identity patterns I desire to change.


Outliers, patterns of success and identity

I'm reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a very interesting book, as all of his books are, and in this particular case has prompted some thoughts on identity, based off of what he's writing about. Outliers are people who are significantly different, in terms of how they succeeded, from the usual cases of success. However, these are not self-made people (if there is such a thing). Rather Gladwell argues that examining their cultural and family background can provide clues as to how these people achieved success. He makes a very convincing case, from what I've read so far, and most importantly shown what I think is another facet of identity in the process. That facet of identity is the cultural and familial models of behavior and practice that inform how a person handles situations that occur in life. These models or patterns of behavior are displayed to a person from early childhood on and they influence how a person makes choices from careers and finances to love and friendship. These patterns can be changed, but changing them involves challenging not just the immediate familial and cultural beliefs and practices, but also a history of them that has influenced previous generations in their choices and actions.

I was reminded of that today, when I was talking with dad about another family member and made the remark that her problems with finances were a direct result of a pattern of belief that a person had to struggle in order to be happy and that she should just focus on her business and not worry about what could happen. My wife, listening to this conversation, accurately pointed out that I participated in this same pattenr of behavior fairly recently myelf...and she's right. And I've been working on changing this pattern, but I realized that this pattern isn't just part of my identity,  but also part of one side of my family's pattern of identity. And that pattern of identity reaches down through the generations to influence the current generation, in this case me. Which isn't to say it can't be changed, because in yet another synchronous conversation with a distant relative I just met today, there was discussion about how a couple of generations ago there was a shift toward getting a college degree by the different members of the family. At some point the gene-erational patterns for the family identity shifted into a different identity for the majority of the family and that pattern is now accepted as something essential to the family identity (if they wouldn't look at it in quite that way).

In Outliers, it's suggested that the identity of success is best realized through patterns of behavior that encourage that identity in the overall family. I would posit that this also applies to other patterns of behavior exhibited in a family and that the sense of identity a person cultivates is partially informed by the family identities that s/he is a part of. When a person wants to change his/her identity, change a pattern of identity/behavior s/he probably does need to account for the weight of the family identity and how it will either provide momentum or resistance to the change. For example, my desire to change my financial patterns and identity is an ongoing process of not only changing that part of my identity in myself, but also starting to change that identity within my family's identity of it (or at least one side of my family). Indeed, I would suspect that for my change in identity to be fully successful, it could be useful to interact with the spirits of my family and show them the benefit of that change, so that they could retroactively start the change in previous generations, providing more momentum behind the changes of identity I'm currently engaged in. there's an idea for an experiment. I need to give it a try and see what happens.