Book Review: Outliers

Wrapped up another interesting book last night called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book Gladwell shares several stories of people who were what we would call successful as well as some stories of others who were simply average or mediocre. All too often, he submits, we assume that people achieve success because of personal qualities. He suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we make sense of success.

His premise is that personal explanations of success are lacking; that people don’t rise from nothing. Rather, they are in fact “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. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down … shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t” (p. 19).

Two things that really stood out to me from the book that were helpful.

First, the book underscores the importance of family and community in the development and production of successful individuals. Yet he goes further than just one’s family and community and digs into cultural background and history to understand why certain people tend to do well in certain things. He looks at some very intriguing studies in this regard. Gladwell admits that some of the findings he explores in the book are not always popular and that “we are often wary of making these kinds of broad generalizations about different … groups – and with good reason. This is the form that … stereotypes take. We want to believe that we are not prisoners of our … histories.” (p. 170)

While our legacies certainly do matter, the question I kept asking myself as I read was whether we are simply bound by our pasts and products of our environments, or is there any hope for change? Two-thirds of the way through the book I finally got my answer, and with it a glimmer of hope. Speaking of someone in one of his case studies who was seeking to bring about reform he observes, “But he didn’t assume that legacies are an indelible pare of who we are. [This leader for reform] believed that if [they] were honest about where they came from and were willing to confront those aspects of their heritage that did not suit [their occupation], they could change” (p. 219).

The second thing that really grabbed me was The 10,000 Hour Rule. Researchers have settled on what they believe to be the magic number of hours needed for true expertise: 10,000 hours. “Ten-thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything” (p. 40). Reinforcing the importance of family and community in this process he notes that it is all but impossible to achieve this all by yourself by the time you’re a young adult. You need parents to support and encourage you. The significance of the 10,000 hour rule is that in our microwave popcorn society, we want instant success. This rule reminds us that the crucible of time and practice, and patience with the process is absolutely essential to success. We are far too quick to dismiss people or write them off as failures when we should be giving them our support and encouragement to press through and achieve the greatness God has destined them to.

Teen Finds $10,000

“A 17-year-old grocery bagger was ready to wash his hands in the bathroom at the Federal Way supermarket where he works when he saw a brown canvas money bag on the floor.

Moisei Baraniuc was curious. He opened it and saw envelopes filled with money – “a pretty thick stack.”

Thick enough to add up to $10,000.

What did he do with it? Read the full story here:

When I Say "I am a Christian"

Stumbled Upon this poem today …

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost! That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble-needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I do not wish to judge
I have no authority–I only know I’m loved

Copyright 1988 Carol Wimmer

Student Goes from Totally Disconnected to Fully Connected!

Last year our theme at Planet Impact was Connect and we focused on the purpose of fellowship. No one embodies the picture of someone going from totally disconnected to fully connected this past year than Brendon Visser. Hear his incredible testimony which he shared at our Thanksgiving service. So great!

Trees, Termites, Teachable Moments & a Terrific 7-Year Old

Today my 7-year old and I were a little stressed out around the house, so I invited her to go out with me for a little daddy-daughter time. We enjoyed some Starbucks coffee and an apple fritter and then went to a park near our house for a walk. As we walked she was getting a little sluggish asking if we could turn around, so I decided to help her get in touch with her senses. I asked her to stop and listen and tell me what she heard. I asked her to look around, smell, and touch some various things along the path. This helped get her mind off of the monotony of just walking. A couple of lessons we learned together.

We found a massive tree which had fallen. Upon closer examination we discovered that it had been destroyed by termites. Lesson: Even little termites can take down big trees. I asked her how that was possible and she pointed to their working together. I told her that even though she may be little herself, she can make a big difference in the world.

We also found a large tree growing right next to the lake. Its roots were running right down the bank toward the water. We talked about the life and strength of this tree and why it stood a good chance of having a long and successful life. When we got back to the car we read Psalm 1:1-4 together which says:

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”

Embracing the teachable moments,


Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

Last week I picked up and read a neat little leadership book by Seth Godin called Tribes. It is a secular book on leadership but contains a great challenge to get out of the boat, embrace the challenge, and take the risk of leading. The back cover contains this statement: “If you think leadership is only for other people, you’re wrong. We need YOU to lead us.” Godin suggests that in today’s unprecedented, globally connected Internet world, we don’t have time to sit around and wait for other people to step out and lead. It is up to us to embrace something worth living for – something we’re passionate about – and go for it. He takes a Nike kind of approach basically saying, “Just do it!”

He defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Whereas in the past tribes have always been restricted by geography, in today’s world, thanks to the Internet, tribes are made up of individuals from around the globe. “Tribes are everywhere today,” says Godin, “and they are yearning for leadership and connection. This is an opportunity for you – an opportunity to find or assemble a tribe and lead it. The question isn’t, Is it possible for me to do that? Now the question is, Will I choose to do it?”

One of my favorite concepts in the book is the idea that the kind of leaders we need today are those Godin calls “heretics” (e.g. Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Thesis) – people who will …

believe in their ideas,

challenge the status-quo,

reach out to others,

listen (“[Ronald] Regan’s secret, is to listen, to value what you hear, and then to make a decision even if it contradicts the very people you are listening to … People want to be sure you heard what they said – they’re less focused on whether or not you do what they said.”),

put their ideas on the line,

create things that are worthy of criticism,

take risks (“It’s a certainty that there’s risk. The safer you play your plans for the future, the riskier it actually is. That’s because the world is certainly, definitely, and more than possibly changing.”),

be willing to be wrong (“The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong. The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal. The only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success.”),

and take initiative to lead.

There were a few things in the book that I didn’t agree with, especially when it comes to a specifically Christian leadership setting (i.e. “Exclude outsiders: Exclusion is a powerful force for loyalty and attention”). One of my favorite words and guiding philosophies of ministry is inclusion. To be sure we need to define who we are and what we’re about. But we need to always be welcoming of everyone, even if they don’t agree with us. Godin suggests that we should set up our tribe and if people don’t like it they can just go start another tribe. That’s where it becomes apparent that not all of his ideas are transferable to a spiritual entity like the Church because they are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus which is our standard. While there are some bones that need to be spit out, it is nevertheless a good little book with some solid food for those who are hungry to grow as leaders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This morning I played 3 1/2 hours of touch football with about 25 guys. I was trying to think of the last time I did that, and I think it was about 9 years ago in the Regent Village. Wow! Add to that the fact that 7 months ago I was using a walker after back surgery, and I am thankful for the Lord’s healing touch. I am also so thankful for my beautiful wife and daughters. They are so awesome! After so many years with a house loaded with people for Thanksgiving, this year we decided to enjoy the day by ourselves. Claudia the chef helped mom make the food, and Natalia won the battle of the wishbone and gets to pick out a movie for the family to watch tomorrow night. (Not tonight. Cowboys are playing! lol) We thank the Lord for all of you our friends and family and pray the Lord’s grace upon you during this joyous holiday season!

Movie Review: Twilight

Several years ago, I vaguely remember my tween-age daughter telling me about Twilight, a new book that she and her friends were reading. Mom had looked it over and assured me it was no big deal. Now, flash forward to opening night of the new big screen version of Twilight and I can tell you from being there, the words “Big Deal” are a HUGE understatement. At our nearest theater, young girls (and their moms) were in line two hours in advance of the theater doors opening and, on a national level, Fandango reported that they had been selling 5 Twilight tickets per second as of early Friday morning, “making Twilight online ticket-seller Fandango’s fastest-selling film since The Dark Knight last July.” Yes, it’s a very big deal and the young ladies in your youth group will definitely be seeing this one.

Read entire review by Smitty Wheeler