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Monday, December 1, 2008

Outliers + Story


"It is not easy to be honest about where we are from," Gladwell writes. Perhaps even more difficult to be grateful for it.

Gladwell, wrapping up his 260 page look at some of our world's most successful individuals says, "They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky - but all critical to making them who they are." What makes an outlier an outlier? Their story. Sure they work hard. Yes they are intelligent. But the one thing that they all have in common is that they embrace their story.

While not Gladwell's words I believe that he acknowledges that these "outliers" have committed to the difficult task of embracing where they came from. They are grateful for their story.

Perhaps that sounds vague to you. To others it may sound cliche. Perhaps it's both. Regardless, I believe that it is true. We must love our story if we expect to find our "outlier potential".

Most often we chose vocations, relationships, and goals based on external criteria. Rather then looking into our own stories, giftings, and contexts we allow the latest trend to steer our efforts. We try to ignore our past in hopes that the pain will go away. We squash our desire for fear that others will judge us. We work very hard to ignore our unique story.

I believe that when we understand that our culture, our upbringing, and our families are part of what makes us unique....when we realize that the divorces, the abuse, and the neglect are all in fact part of who we are....when we stop listening to the world's distortion of our desire...then we will see our opportunity for greatness (whatever that means to you).

Gladwell shares that one of the themes found in every outlier is the opportunity or space for practice. Each outlier identified (purposefully or by some bit of luck) where there was opportunity in their story. They found what was unique about their situation and they lived into it. They didn't fight it. They didn't make a decision based on cultural preference or salary range. They stepped into their stories.

While Gladwell certainly says more than this in his book, the reminder to be grateful for my story hit me this past holiday weekend. I am still learning what it means to be grateful for my past. To be grateful for the death so that myself and others can know life. To embrace my giftings rather than trying to fit them into some cultural trend. To know my limitations and acknowledge my opportunities. Its not easy work. However, I am finding more gratitude for my story because of many of you.

May we all continue to live out of gratitude for our unique story rather than adding to the pages of those who fail leaping at the latest trends.

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