Outliers: The Story of Success 《非凡之輩: 勤有功,時與我》

March 27 Update: 與林行止先生談談Outliers書名的翻譯
— 我的第二個「試譯」《非凡之輩: 勤有功,時與我》


Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers: The Story of Success 《表表者的故事: 勤有功,時與我》 is a book that I highly recommend. It just happened that my friend Lap has forwarded a group of us 林行止’s article “漁火偷渡客 江上數峰青” (which was also referenced by my blog friend Ming).

I am enclosing the following edited discussions and turning it into a blog entry.

Note: Do check out my previous blog entries on Gladwell: the now famous TED spaghetti sauce 18 minutes video presentation and pooling of risk. More videos here and here.


Happy to engage in this discussion. I just hope others are not totally bored by us. :)

Gladwell talks about his book “Outliers – the Stories of Success” on this page.

林行止 gives it a temporary Chinese title《表表者之勤有功》. I agree with his decision of not doing a literal and direct translation of “the Stories of Success” because it doesn’t tell us much. And the reason of him using “勤有功” is because Gladwell, the author, talks about the 10,000 hour rule (see here).

You can only starting to become an expert if you have spent about 10,000 hours on something (piano, chess, drawing, painting, etc). And spending 10,000 hours on something can be said of 勤有功.

The problem and flaw of 林行止 in using only 勤有功 is that he ignored to mention the other important factors like cultural and timing, etc. Again, in the book, Gladwell talks about the math ability of Asian kids (whether you agree with his supports or not is a different topic) the Chinese cultural is one that historically rise up real early to take care of their rice fields and that Chinese words of numbers are shorter to pronounce, etc.

And in the example of Bill Gates in 1968, when Gates was only 13, he (and along with Microsoft co-founder) was the only kid that has unlimited access to time-share computer resources for him to learn about computer and computer programming. And this is the reason that I added “時與我” to “勤有功”. If we have “勤有功” alone, it gives the false impression that you are really smart or you put in your 10,000 hours, than you can be Bill Gates. Wrong! Timing makes a big difference. Our individual culture makes a big difference. Who our parents are, who their friends are, what kind of businesses they are in, what kind of societies they and we live in matters, etc.

Galdwell also talks about and analyze the tragic case of Korean airline crashing a few years ago (based on the cockpit voice recording). It was painfully sad to hear that story. The Korean culture of totally respecting and obeying their seniors or the authorities were parts of the reasons that lead to the tragic consequences of the plane crashing. Part of the steps to make it safe to fly again in Korea again was to change the Korean culture and the way they speak in the cockpit environment.

The Calgary library has the 61 copies of the book and 17 copies of the CD book (read by the author) or you can pick it up from Amazon (the site has a video).

Here is an excerpt from Gladwell’s Q&A,

11. What do you want people to take away from Outliers?

I think this is the way in which Outliers is a lot like Blink and Tipping Point. They are all attempts to make us think about the world a little differently. The hope with Tipping Point was it would help the reader understand that real change was possible. With Blink, I wanted to get people to take the enormous power of their intuition seriously. My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is. When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It’s because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances— and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds—and how many of us succeed—than we think. That’s an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea.

P.S. For those that love audio book, the 7 CDs unabridged Outliers is read by Gladwell himself.

P.P.S. Interesting, someone has given Gladwell’s book this translation 《表表者之勤有功、勢要就》 and also collected the birthdays of some of the Hong Kong super rich.”睇《福布斯》特區富豪榜同維基百科,李嘉誠1928年出世、李兆基1928、鄭裕彤1925、霍英東1923、陳廷驊1923、何鴻燊1921,拉闊小小仲可以包括1918年出世嘅包玉剛。”


Jan 14, 2009 Update: An interesting piece from CBC “The Charming Malcolm Gladwell“.


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