An outlier's last lecture

"Everything we have learned in 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 had the strength and presence of mind to seize them…We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth… But they don’t. They are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

The above is taken from the last chapter and the epilogue of Malcolm Gladwell’s book :Outliers”. It sums up what Gladwell thinks does and what does not contribute to the success of outliers.

Now let’s turn to another book, Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”. Randy Pausch is of course the American university professor who gave a stirring last lecture before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2008. Here is how Randy Pausch is introduced in the official website of his book:

“Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He was an award-winning teacher and researcher, and worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the non-profit Alice project. (Alice is an innovative 3-D environment that teaches programming to young people via storytelling and interactive game-playing.) He also co-founded The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon with Don Marinelli. (ETC is the premier professional graduate program for interactive entertainment as it is applied across a variety of fields.)”
Randy Pausch was well and truly an outlier. Both his last lecture and his book were about how he managed to achieve most of his childhood dreams. It is interesting how, reading his book, one can see that the circumstances which contributed to his success fits in nicely with what Malcolm Gladwell said in “Outliers”. Just look at these three sentences:

“I won the parent lottery.”
“I grew up comfortably middle class in Columbia, Maryland.”
“I live in the computer age and I love it here.”

For details about how crucial these factors were, watch Randy Pausch’s last lecture or, even better, read his book.

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