Outliers: some stories of success

I finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell this week. It’s the first book of his I’ve read though I’ve heard him on This American Life and read at least one short piece of his — both of which experiences I liked. I don’t have any great desire to delve into the whole book to critique it here. I enjoy Gladwell’s writing style and it was full of interesting ways of thinking of things. I do take slight issue with — of all things — the subtitle: “The Story of Success.” It’s really some stories of success and unusual ways of looking at certain successes.

I can’t help but think of the rock ‘n’ roll example: The Beatles. Their “10,000 hour rule” story jumps out at me. It’s hard to argue with the example of them since they absolutely put in the hours they needed to become better players and absolutely had the talent to achieve what they did. But squeezing them into the “10,000 hours rule” chapter misrepresents a key factor that undeniably affected their success: line-up changes.

Playing in Hamburg, amassing those 10,000 hours, the Beatles had a different rhythm section: Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best. While the time the other three put in playing in Germany honed their chops incredibly, what of Ringo? And while I’d never disparage McCartney’s musicality, it is significant to switch from guitar to bass in a band. (Though 10,000 hours on guitar is probably enough preparation for the move.)

The question of the rhythm section nagged me as I read the book. I think because it’s hard to pinpoint pop culture success. How many successful (in popular and monetary ways) musicians could we name who were selected into success before they came near putting in 10,000 hours?