Are successful people primarily the beneficiaries of luck, timing and cultural legacy?
What is the difference between Joe Six-Pack, Joe the Plumber and Joe Biden? One is vice president, and the other two are not. Why? The answer depends on a host of interactive variables that must be factored into any equation of success: genes, parents, siblings, peers, mentors, practice, drive, culture, timing, legacy and luck. The rub for the scientist is determining the percentage of influence of each variable and its interactions, which requires the use of sophisticated statistical models.
Journalists unconstrained by research protocols churn out selfhelp books that focus on select variables that interest them. Few do so better than Malcolm Gladwell, and in his new book Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown, 2008), the New Yorker writer claims that successful people are not “self-made” but instead “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” (continue reading…)