Thoughts on Outliers: Will I EVER be a twittering Beauty Queen Who Flies Planes?

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I finished reading Outliers a few weeks ago and, like all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I loved it. It now resides on my top ten shelf smack dab between Twilight and Enchantment.

Gladwell’s insight into into “success” is mystifying and staggering and humbling all at once. With Outliers, Gladwell irrevocably proves that there is no magical kool aid you drink to become successful. Success is about hard work (10,000 hours of it!), some special circumstance and a dash of luck.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal success since I finished the book and have spent a lot of time comparing myself to the “successful” people Gladwell talks about. What have I learned from this exercise? Comparing yourself to Bill Gates is extremely intimidating. To be honest, comparing yourself to any of the “characters” in Gladwell’s book is intimidating! My thoughts went something like this: “I wasn’t born in Canada in 1983 AND I didn’t have access to a computer at the beginning time or motherboards AND I’ve never done ANYTHING for 10,000 hours… will I EVER be a twittering beauty queen who can fly planes?”

Kidding. Sort of.

After my big think following Outliers, I realized something really important. I am never going to be Bill Gates, but you know what? That is not what I WANT to be. So I decided to outline my goals and measure my personal success based on those goals as opposed to the goals of people who came before me.

So what does Maggie want to be when she grows up?

I want to teach. I want to help people understand the magic I feel at my fingertips as I type. I don’t want people to be scared of Facebook or think Twitter is a dirty word. I want people to look at the internet as a tool they can use instead of an evil set of tubes. I want to explain things to people in a way that they understand and I don’t ever want anyone to feel stupid when I tell them something. I want to be a Public Relations Geek but I don’t ever want to be a know-it-all. I want to celebrate my small successes, and I want everyone I know to celebrate theirs.

I graduated with a Public Relations degree from the University of Houston. I ADORE people and can talk to anyone for hours. You are a radish farmer? Let’s talk about it!!!! I didn’t really count this love of people and the countless hours I’ve spent talking as “practice” though. Everyone talks, right? After sitting with my boss and brooding about my intimidation of the magical “10,000 hours” he asked me if I thought I’d done anything at all for 10,000 hours. My response? “Reading, Breathing…. Talking.”

So clearly ya ain’t Bill Gates sweet pea. You’re something a little different…. something a little “louder” I’d say.

For a PR Major, 10,000 hours of human interaction is a pretty beneficial thing don’t you think? But it is also a pretty common thing for people in my field because “people-people” gravitate towards Communication careers. So how will I differentiate myself from the rest of the people in my field? Luckily, I have a level of curiosity rivaled only by my cat. I started digging around on the interwebs 6 months ago and fell hopelessly in love. That is how I’m going to be little different than PR pros. So why am I intimidated? I know that my goal is to be a PR Geek and to help people; what is stopping me?

I’m not even CLOSE to being an expert, on anything internet related and that is half of my goal. 10,000 hours is A LOT OF HOURS. When I finished Outliers, it looked to me like an insurmountable mountain of CSS, HTML and Internet Speak. Where was I to begin?? It took me a little while, but I finally realized: If I am standing still staring at the mountain, I have not begun anything. To “begin” I realized I had to start celebrating the small successes that will get me to 10,000 hours.

So when did your climb begin??

When I first started working at Schipul, I thought a DNS cloud was that white fluffy thing that rolls over your house before a big storm. Who knew DNS had to do with the name of a server where a website lives?!? I looked around at my coworkers and they were all like Bill Gates to me. I had no idea what ANYONE was talking about half of the day! So what did I decide to do? Start the Schipul blog. By myself. WHICH MAKES PERFECT SENSE RIGHT? To me it did. How was I going to learn if I didn’t get down and dirty with it. God bless our IT Director’s patience. I think he could have set up the Schipul blog in 29 seconds or less but he answered countless questions and put up with me for the bajillion 4 or 5 hours it of Maggie-time it actually took.

To be a fly on the wall during one of our discourses would have been highly entertaining.

Maggie: So. I think Webfaction is possessed by the devil.* I can’t get the domain to shoot the right way and the nav makes no sense and their helpfiles are WORTHLESS.
IT Director: Are you sure you’re pointing the DNS to the right server?
Maggie: I think so. I wrote them support ticket.
IT Director: Yeah. I saw it.
Maggie: Did it make sense?
IT Director: (silence)
Maggie: No? Okay. I’m going to rewrite it. Be right back!
IT Director: (puts head on desk)

Poor guy. When it was all said and done, I gave him a big hug but he probably deserved something more akin to an entire keg of Bud Light and a bottle of tequila a case of beer. We got through it though, right?

And you know what I did when it was all said and done? I CELEBRATED! Why did I forget about all these little mountains I’d climbed when I completed Outliers? Because I let myself be intimidated. And I forgot for a second just how much I’d celebrated the “little” stuff just a few months prior.

The biggest most important but most often forgotten lesson in Outliers?

You did not get where you are by yourself. People and circumstances helped you out a long the way. You got a few lucky breaks and did some amazing things with them. No matter what your job is, no matter who you are, you’ve got a chance to be successful. You just have to walk through the door when it opens.

When you get to the other side, you may not be Bill Gates…. But you climbed a mountain and became your own sort of expert. Which I think is better than standing still any day of the week.

*Webfaction is great and not really possessed by the devil. I just didn’t get it six months ago :)

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11 Responses

  1. happykatie says:

    Mags, I love the fact that you are the kind of person who grabs opportunity by the cheeseballs and just Gets.It.Done.

    You are one heck of a smart gal, but it's your passion for people, learning, sharing and helping other folks kick butt that sky rockets you way beyond most people I have ever met. That Human Foundation of yours will help not only YOU be an awesome and successful person – but also help create a culture of support, love and amazing-ness for those around you to excel as well.

    Also, if you ever make it to a Miss America beauty queen fest I will be the drunk fangirl in the front trying to touch your shoes. Malcolm forgot to write the chapter on Irish girls, but yeah – we're pretty much inherently awesome.

  2. Fayza says:

    And who knows. One day (soon), YOU may be someone's Bill Gates.

    You're your own biggest asset. Big ups, mami, big ups.

  3. Fayza says:

    And I signed up for Intense Debate for you.

  4. David says:

    My climb started when I was 14 and I got a Geocities Web page and started building HTML-based sites. All my headers were centered.

  5. magsmac says:

    Did you use Comic Sans? :)

  6. happykatie says:

    Mags, I love the fact that you are the kind of person who grabs opportunity by the cheeseballs and just Gets.It.Done. You are one heck of a smart gal, but it's your passion for people, learning, sharing and helping other folks kick butt that sky rockets you way beyond most people I have ever met.

    That Human Foundation of yours will help not only YOU be an awesome and successful person – but also help create a culture of support, love and amazing-ness for those around you to excel as well.

    Also, if you ever make it to a Miss America beauty queen fest I will be the drunk fangirl in the front trying to touch your shoes. Malcolm forgot to write the chapter on Irish girls, but yeah – we're pretty much inherently awesome.

  7. AliMac says:

    Dear MagsMac,
    You do have a wonderful way with people and you always have- it is such a *neat* gift to have!
    Love,
    AliMac (aka sleepless in College Station)
    PS- Katie: I am going to start using the word "cheeseballs" in the sense that you did above, because that's pretty hilarious.

  8. […] out. I have an internet crush Malcolm Gladwell. I know I already blogged about him here and here… and also tweet about him all the time, but I just saw him speak at a Greater […]

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