Archives For outliers

My goal is to read about 30-40 books a year.

Since my wife and I have young children, reading is difficult to achieve in our stage of life. I remember being frustrated a couple of years ago about this and wanted to find a solution to feed my mind’s curiosity.

Then I discovered audiobooks. 

People learn in different ways. I have friends who can read 50 or 60 books a year without breaking a sweat. I wish I could get to that point as a reader but I’ve discovered that I absorb information better through from the spoken word of an audiobook.

Book with HeadphonesBefore there were books, there was the beauty of the spoken word.

For thousands of years, stories were passed down from word of mouth, primarily because literacy was reserved for the elite and books were difficult to reproduce. Human history tells us that we are designed as humans to listen to others tell stories and share with the next person.

The reading purist may think I’m a heretic but my goal here is to help people discover more books through the way they can get the most out of them. I still read about 15 to 25 books a year in addition to audiobooks and I believe balance in reading is important.

I listen to audiobooks in the car on my drive to work, on long road trips, and when I work out during the week. I have hours of time that would go wasted without audiobooks, which makes me very thankful for them.

I’ve listened to many audiobooks and to be honest some are recorded with poor quality or are read by a voice that I don’t like. In those times, I stop listening and move on to the next. It’s okay to ditch one if it doesn’t work for you.

But, there are some excellent ones to choose from.

Here are five great audiobooks

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (read by award-winning voice talent, Scott Brick)

I loved this because I was always. As the author Krakauer makes a point in his book about Pat Tillman, he seems like a Greek athlete and personality of old.

WAR by Sebastian Junger (read by the author)

I thought this book had an important story to understand, especially from the words read by author Sebastian Junger. Since he was embedded with an Army Ranger company in Afghanistan for over a year, his words would have more passion and meaning than another voice.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James D. Bradley (read by the author)

You all probably know that I love history books and this is one read by author James Bradley is a harrowing tale of Navy flyboys during World War II in the Pacific. With his Wisconsin accent, Bradley shares harrowing stories of these men in one of the most tragic stories you’ve never heard of from World War II.

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden (read by John Curless)

Although written by an American, it is read by an English voice talent, John Curless, who reads the book with an Edwardian pomposity. I love listening to books written about British people. Don’t we all?

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (read by the author)

There is a cadence to the voice of Malcolm Gladwell and his soft tone brings curiosity to the listener and releases the spirit of the author’s ideas. I think business books are great to listen to for the business traveler, who is traditionally on the run.

Notice how I did not mention fiction audiobooks. I have nothing against them except for idea that I believe fiction books are meant to stretch the imagination of the reader. Last year, I listened to a few and felt like the experience would be better by traditionally reading them. I can’t imagine listening to The Lord of the Rings, Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Chronicles of Narnia for that reason. If you find some good ones to listen to, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Questions consider before picking the right audiobook

  • How long do you have to listen to an audiobook?
  • Do you have a road trip coming up?
  • Do you have a long commute to work?
  • Do you work out multiple times a week?
  • Do you want to listen to the author or a professional reader? Would either make it a better listening experience?
  • Is a physical CD or digital version preferable for you?

Where to get audiobooks

Physically buy them at a store:  These are often the most expensive ($20-50)

Digital editions:  Choose from iTunes, Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, AudioBooks.com, or Audible.com ($10-$30)

Public Library: This is where I get 90% of my audiobooks because yes, they are FREE. I don’t mind owning an audiobook because I can always  check it out again.

Free audiobooks: You can download classic audiobooks Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Joseph Conrad, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Here are two great places to download classic books free. Librivox and Open Culture.

Caution: I don’t recommend listening to a comedy audiobook while working out. I literally dropped a dumbbell on my head when working out listening to Stephen Colbert read and act out America Again.

Do you like audiobooks? 
If so, which ones have you enjoyed most and why? 

“Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

In my personal and professional life, there are few days that go by that I don’t notice people who have done incredible things to make an impact. The world sees them as examples of success.

Sometimes, I wonder,

How did they achieve these things?

What made these people different?

After reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, it has become easier to answer these question. He asks the same question in his book and in his research discovered some amazing things about what makes these people unique (or not).

“People don’t rise from nothing….It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”

outliers

Gladwell shares many examples to support this including a personal story about his own mother and how she achieved success as an outlier. Let me explain my story.

When I was eleven years old and beginning my summer vacation before 6th grade, I was asked last-minute to join some friends in a golf tournament. At the time, I did not even remember what the tournament it was except that it was to be played in Kansas City, not far from where I grew up. I had been playing golf for a few years but golf was a distant fourth sport of choice behind baseball, soccer and basketball. I enjoyed the game and was intrigued by it but it wasn’t where I thought I would spend my time.

The night before the tournament it poured down rain in Kansas City. I think the tournament anticipated a hundred kids to play in it but the next morning only about fifteen showed up to play and I was one of them. I was a decent golfer for my age but as I mentioned, it wasn’t my priority sport.

I won the tournament that day. In fact, it made me the Missouri State Champion for the UCT Invitational and they gave me an all expenses paid trip to Victoria, Canada to play in the North American final. Crazy, huh? It was one of many events that propelled me forward in confidence and ability to keep getting better. It took me through high school golf, college golf, and amateur state play throughout the years.

Three years before the tournament that changed my life, my family moved across town in suburban Kansas City and our new house happened to be on the first hole of a small golf course. That particular golf course happened to be one of the best junior golf programs in all of the city, which provided me the best opportunity out of many kids to excel in the sport. My parents were not serious golfers but my grandparents bought me my first set of clubs that year and I took up the game. After given the opportunity to win that tournament, I never looked back and eventually quit my other sports to play more golf.

Lining up with my playing partners at the UCT North American Golf Tournament. That is me in the middle. Nice visor!

Lining up with my playing partners at the UCT North American Golf Tournament. That is me in the middle. Nice visor!

Like Gladwell suggests about Outliers, there was nothing about me that was particularly special except I was put in the right places and encouraged by the right people at the right times to play the game of golf, work hard at it, and excel in it. I was given the right chance to succeed. Gladwell expands the thought,

“Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.”
Gladwell was spot on and my story is more confirmation of it.
What do we do with this?
Is life just a roll of the dice then? 
Gladwell doesn’t draw a specific conclusion on why certain people are chosen but he hints at something greater.
His hint is what strengthens my faith. It is humbling because it means that in life we never achieve success on our own. We need others. We need God to put us in the right places at the right times and guide us in his perfect purpose.
Think about something you’ve excelled at in life. 
How did it happen?
Who helped you?
What did you do about it?
It is there that you see God at work.

I was impressed with the 15 minute story on 60 Minutes this week about “Redshirt Students”. I became aware of this issue since having kids and if you do not know much about it, you can read a great article in Huffington Post. To summarize the issue, many parents are holding back their kids to start Kindergarten a year later. Why? The idea is so their kids will be older and have an edge on other students. They could be physically bigger to be more developed athletes (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on Canadian Hockey players). They could be more advanced in the classroom. They could eventually be the first to drive at 16 to have a social edge. They could also be better leaders just for the fact of being older. It seems to be an issue affecting boys more than girls but nevertheless it is happening to both. I envision a Tiger Mom’s saliva dripping from its mouth at the thought of this.

There are plenty of negatives to this like being bored in the classroom, have behavioral issues, trouble relating to the younger students, etc. Yes, it is confusing for the kids.

But this is not about the kids. 

Photo Credit: Premus

Brooke and I have two wonderful, unique, and imperfect girls. Our oldest daughter will be starting a Pre-K class next year so this issue hits home as we observe what other parents do for their kids. Brooke and I could technically hold back our daughter a year from Kindergarten and start her at 6 1/2.  Yes, 6 1/2, which is crazy to us. Despite being the youngest in her class, so far she has every ability to keep up with the older kids. There are many instances of younger kids need to be held back, which is understandable and shows how each situation is unique.

The idea of redshirting students reminds me of my experience dealing with some of my friends’ parents at a young age. When I was even eight years old, I knew that these parents were pushing my friends at every sport. They verbally abused them, practically broke out a whip to keep them practicing, rarely praised them, etc. It was disgusting and if they were smart enough to start their kids earlier in school, they would have (maybe they did). But most of my friends who were pushed around so hard by their parents were stressed, unhappy, and eventually ended up in serious therapy (or should have). I am thankful for my parents were not pushy but encouraging in that process and ultimately helped me to be successful in the things I was most passionate about in those years.

Why do parents do this?

There are three reasons:

  1. Envy: They see other parents’  kids “succeeding” early in life. They see it as necessary to make sure their kids do the same or better. It is pure envy.
  2. Fear: God forbid their kids would not be the best in something or not succeed. They feel the need to “protect” their kids because they fear failure.
  3. Pride: Even parents want to feel significant. Perhaps it is through their child’s success? Perhaps they are trying to make up for some issue in their own life and forcing it on their own kids? But pride is at the root of all of this.
All of this points to a redshirt life. We all are susceptible to this lie.

The redshirt life is about safety, control, and lack of adventure.

Brooke and I have discovered as parents how easy it can be to be caught in this trap. The idea of redshirting our kids is a reminder that Brooke and I need to give our kids up to God. We want to be great stewards with the gifts God has given us, especially our kids. But ultimately this all is a reminder that we need to give up control. God reminded me this week through 2 Timothy 1:7 (King James),

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

There will be many more times we will encounter issues like this. May we all be in prayer for our kids and to also ask God to reveal our own hearts in the process. The verse above is about trusting God, thinking with the good mind he gave us and to always act in love for our children.