Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book Outliers, asserts, unconventionally, that success is not about how hard we work or how much we overcome - sure, those are important - but rather about where we come from, specifically, (1) the year we were born and (2) the status and history of our family. The answers to those two questions will predict stratospheric success more than anything else.
But while Malcolm's explanation of success is unconvential, his definition of it is not. He frames success as does conventional wisdom - along the lines of money, power, fame. Bill Gates is clearly a success. So are the Beattles. Both examples in Malcolm's book.
Well, those things are simply harder to define. How exactly do we define happiness? How do we use it as a benchmark to determine the degree to which someone has it? With money, it's easy - How much does someone make or have in the bank? But with happiness, it's nebulous at best.
This is a measurement problem. There's no way to measure happiness like there is to measure money. Where there's a measurement problem, there's a credibility problem. And where there's a credibility problem, people don't buy in.
Malcolm could have written a book about success defined as happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace - in fact, we would have loved to have read it - but he might have had a problem with readership buy-in, and ultimately, book sales. In a world - or at least, a country (America) - that defines success as how much money we accumulate, power we amass, and fame we attract, low book sales would have been a problem.
This entry is not meant as a critique of Malcolm's book (we really liked it) or his values (we suspect he's a good person). We simply use his book as a reference point and catalyst for thought and conversation.
We'd love to hear from you. Do you buy-in to this alternative definition of success? Or do you think it's just a rationalization of reality? Put another way: Are you drawn to the type of success achieved by Bill Gates or the Dalai Lama? Comment here or write us at email@example.com.