Monday, January 11, 2010


I'm not sure the background of the author, but the book is not in the Christian mainstream by any means (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell).  Not to say he doesn't have a faith background (?), but I love the conclusions that he makes.

A professor that specialized in intelligence testing, set out to do a unique study.  The professor in charge of this experiment ran all of the necessary tests over and over on California school children in the 1920's.  He ran them until he had found literal child geniuses, 730 total.  He and a team of people followed them all through their lives and some of them lived up to the billing of being a genius and made a name for themselves (Group A).  Some of them kind of did, but definitely not to the level you'd expect (Group B).  And others not at all (Group C).

It was essentially billed as a failed social experiment because it was thought that with the right IQ, it would be almost impossible to not 'succeed'.  However, as life played itself out among these 730 children, results were varied.


If you know the story of Bill Gates, Bill Joy, or even the Beatles then you know that they had immense amount of intelligence and talent.  If you take a close look at their lives and their career, you'll see that coupled with this immense amount of intelligence and talent was extraordinary opportunities, timing, and let's face it.. luck.  (To get the details of their story and more read the book).  In other word's forces outside themselves were arguably the biggest catalyst for their success.


Back to the children now.  So if these children (the C's, who are now adults) didn't make a name for themselves and weren't able to leverage their intelligence and talent to its full potential, then what happened?  Or better yet, what didn't happen?

Here is the first half of the author's conclusion:

"The results were deeply distressing.  Let's not forget how highly gifted the C's were.  If you had met them at five or six years of age, you would have been overwhelmed by their curiosity and mental agility and sparkle.  They were true outliers.  The plain truth of the study, however, is that in the end almost none of the genius children from the lowest social and economic class ended up making a name for themselves."

This is the first half, and if you stopped there what kind of conclusions would you make?  If you were asked to pinpoint the problem or figure out who is to blame, you would undoubtedly blame the parents for lack of support or the individual person because it must have been something that they did to squander all of their God-given gifts.

But if anything can be learned from the story of Bill Gates, Bill Joy, or the Beatles, (again saving the details.. just read the book trust me) they each required something far more than just themselves to help propel them to reach their full potential.

Here is the second half of the author's conclusion:

"What did the C's lack, though?  Not something expensive or impossible to find; not something encoded in DNA or hardwired into the circuits of their brains.  They lacked something that we could have been given to them if we'd only known they needed it:  a community around them that prepared them properly for the world.  The C's were squandered talent.  But they didn't need to be."  (emphasis added)

The C's lacked opportunities, they lacked a caring network of adults, they lacked a way to the mainstream, they were isolated, they were cut off.

If we take an honest look at our lives, we'll see that our achievement is less about our talent than it is about the opportunities that we've been given.  I mean seriously, how any times have I said, heard, or seen it in practice about how "it's all about connections."  Whether it pertains to getting an interview, a job, into college, etc.

We are all about building communities of hope, justice, and compassion at n2n.  Built into that, is creating networks that result in communities of hope, justice and compassion.  Bridging people and connecting people together that otherwise would never have had any interaction and contact.  The HOSTS mentoring program at n2n is a great example of that.  Pairing caring adults with youth.  And like I've said before, the relationships that form in HOSTS go both ways.  The mentor and the mentee need each other and they are not complete without one another. (read: A Lasting Picture)

Because like Malcolm Gladwell said, they (the C's) lacked something we could have been giving to them if we'd only known they needed it.  All youth need to be surrounded by a network of caring adults.  Adults that choose to leverage their gifts and talents for others because there is not equal access to the resources of God's creation.

How God's kingdom works though, is that when we look at these youth and see that they need something that we have.. God flips the script.  And says, no it's actually you that's lacking and needs to be changed too.  Reciprocity.

People aren't granted with equal access to God's creation (that's a justice issue).  In terms of what it means to be Christian, what kind of emotions does this evoke in us?  And what are some practical ways that we can move beyond and into action?