What Keeps People from Success? Reflection Essay example

  • Category: Goals, Life,
  • Words: 645 Pages: 3
  • Published: 20 September 2021
  • Copied: 174

Everyone has the potential to succeed, but unfortunately, some people will never get the chance to, and those who do are seen as geniuses and their success is something that stands apart from the rest. They are seen as an outlier. According to Malcolm Gladwell, success can never be attributed to one element. These successful people are only so due to a specific set of circumstances and it's not a random act. Success and achieving it has its predetermined circumstances, such as your upbringing, the day you were born or your ethnic background. However, those could either be a barrier to overcome and learn from, or they could hinder one’s success.

In Outliers Gladwell makes a point to explain opportunity, and how it is affected by your upbringing. Take Chris Langan. He had an IQ of 195, which was higher than Einstein’s, and he lived most of his life not being able to sustain his thirst for knowledge due to his poverty-stricken childhood. To add on, it was abusive, and he had had little access to good education. Langan had a full scholarship to collage but had to drop out due to his own mother forgetting to sign the form. He was not given an opportunity to see his full potential and was unfortunately not successful. “Here (Langan) was, a man with an insatiable appetite for learning, forced for most of his adult life to live in intellectual isolation.” (Gladwell 96) On the other hand there was Robert Oppenheimer, a child genius much like Langan. However, Oppenheimer had the opportunities that Langan did not. He had a wealthy family and had access to the best forms of education like Harvard. He suffered from depression, and he had a tutor who made him work hard until he had enough and tried to poison the tutor. He was allowed to stay in school and went on to become the director of the Manhattan project. Two promising children, with vastly different outcomes of life because of their upbringing. 

“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 175) This example is a ldifferent because cultural legacies are a source of strength and weakness. Joe Flom is a good example of cultural legacies working as a strength. In the 40’s and 50’s, law firms did not accept Jewish lawyers or clients, and Flom being Jewish, he was excluded from working in almost all the elite law firms, so he had to take what he could get. As he took whatever case, that included ones that regular lawyers did not take, and that gave him and other Jewish lawyers like him the expertise to be as successful as they were when law firms began to loosen up their restrictions. An example of cultural legacies having a negative effect would be the way that back then, women were expected to stay at home to cook, clean, and take care of children, and so typically they were uneducated and did not have the opportunity for schooling like their male counterparts did. Now, (for the most part) we have broken away from this toxic mindset and now women have an almost equal opportunity at success. That’s in America at least. Unfortunately, there’s still people who still have this mindset and push prejudice and don’t allow women or other minorities a chance at being successful or get an education. To add onto this point, Gladwell also discusses plane crashes and how they are affected by culture. Planes in perfectly good condition were crashing and people didn’t know why. Gladwell proposed the idea that cultures which enforce belief that subordinates should remain docile and not speak up to their superiors get into more plane crashes than cultures where all individuals are equal. 

There are predetermined factors and circumstances that contribute to people’s success, and barriers that hinder success. By understanding them, you can understand another’s success and hopefully can learn from them and become successful.


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