In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a strong case for examining the way we think about success. He weaves together wide ranging episodes from plane crashes to academic failure to Asian rice fields, & highlighting successful technological juggernauts, child prodigies, corporate takeover lawyers, inner city Middle school students, Junior National hockey teams and even the Beatles (yes, those Beatles). The common thread in these otherwise disparate stories is Gladwell’s tip of the hat to the support players and circumstances that made success possible for those people who seem to stand above the crowd.
“No one – not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone.” This is the recurrent thought of Outliers. No one makes it alone. The “self-made man” is a myth. For every individual that has seemingly risen above the rubble to achieve success, there is a litany of opportunities that made the hard work even possible. Bill Gates became “Bill Gates” because he was afforded a series of opportunities not offered to everyone, and he seized those opportunities in order to make the most of the exceptional intellect he’d been born with. The Beatles became great through a series of very fortunate events that allowed them to hone their craft in a way that wasn’t possible for most young Liverpool musicians.
The question for me, then becomes: What am I doing to build a culture of success in which my students can thrive? Am I offering blank pages upon which they can paint the dreams God has planted in them, or merely teaching them to stay inside the lines? Will my students be able to one day look back and see a door I held open for them, or will they wish someone had given them the opportunity they needed?
What are you doing to prepare the young generation to succeed? How are you building an environment that builds them up and offers opportunity? Who’s standing on your shoulders?