Opportunity is everywhere we look. Do you see it? Look closer. Our attitudes provide our lens – our outlook to see the opportunities around us. Sure – hindsight is 20/20, but if we start looking forward for it, we may just find it out in front of us in our very path. Opportunity today can impact our legacy tomorrow.
If you recall a few posts back, Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The story of success, was mentioned. Well, for those of you on the edge of your seats waiting for more, here is your opportunity to read and learn more. It brings to light so many thoughts on so many levels, and can be part of each our legacies if we seize the moment – seize the opportunity.
Let’s start with the basics – the definition of two important terms: opportunity and legacy.
Opportunity can be defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. According to Merriam-Webster, opportunity is a favorable juncture of circumstances or a good change for advancement or progress. Also, according to Merriam-Webster, legacy is a gift by will, especially of money or other personal property or something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. These are two positive, powerful words. I say we set them free and employ them every chance we get.
In Outliers we come to understand that “success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you were born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were… all make a significant difference in how well you do in the world”… as well as traditions, attitudes, and cultural legacies (p.176).
Gladwell provides various and multiple stories to support his theory. He weaves his narrative to tell the story of opportunity in Part One by considering the Matthew Effect, the 10,000-Hour Rule, and more. From there he progresses to Part Two where he addresses legacy with personal stories to demonstrate how our ancestors’ legacies and our own legacy plays a major role in our success.
Outliers says that “success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (p.267). Hmmm… seize the day? That is a quite common phrase about capturing oopportunity.
One particular focus in the book raised my eyebrows as an educator. Summer vacation. Love-hate relationship here as an educator… So, what does he say?
Gladwell notes the unchallenged mindset of summer vacation in the United States. We point fingers when it comes to low test scores without seeing the big picture. Our learners are “out-houred” when it comes to education. We focus on the faults of schools when in fact, they are mostly pretty good with some fine teachers. What is missing? The extra days and hours that other countries provide. The author compares “The school year in the United States is, on average, 180 days long. The South Korean school year is 220 days long. The Japanese school year is 243 days long” (p.260). Year-round schooling may be unpopular to many – especially to those of us who grew up with a long, care-free summer – but it makes sense. Sorry. Again – hope not to lose any of our fabulous blog followers with my open comments about summer… Don’t get me wrong, I love summer! I do need to take this moment to share my thoughts, however. What if? … What if we tried a trimester-system, where engaged learning happens in schools for a term with an extended break of maybe 2-3 weeks before starting up again and repeating. July holiday? Sure – it should still work and not diminish student retention. You have to admit there is some validity in this way of thinking. What if? Okay – back to the book…
Life is hard. Life is harder for some. Life is even harder for others. How is it decided whose life will be especially tough while others experience what seems like smooth-sailing?
“We are so caught up in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth” (p.268). Gladwell continues “To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all…The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for” (p.268). Why do we settle? Why do we think it is okay to leave behind any of our neighbors? Why don’t we offer a hand to help everyone up and to do better each day? We are only as strong as our weakest link, right? Let this be our legacy – that opportunity is truly a possibility for all.
Gladwell closes with his own family’s history, and the thought that the success of outliers being attributed to history, community, opportunity, legacy, advantages and inheritances. “The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all” (p.285).
If you get the opportunity, read Outliers. And consider year-round education and our legacy…