When most people think of success, they think it is portrayed as pure talent, ability, and happiness. But that is not always the case, as struggles and uncontrollable circumstances come in as a large factor. Essentially as we’ve progressed in the novel Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, we’ve come across many stories and studies that is used to analyze who an individual is. Along with the key components it takes to get them to where they are today, and the great ideas and triumph they have achieved. These Outliers are represented as intelligent and hard working individuals who do not fit into our normal understanding of accomplishment in society. Gladwell’s main arguments were that practice has meaning, cultural legacy can influence opportunities, and that the time and a place where one was born matters. I have decided to use an example of one of the most famous physicists of the century. This scientists’ hard work and commitment was shown to truly express his brilliant mind through creative discoveries and inventions. Albert Einstein is an outlier. He has struggled and failed before reaching his full potential, even as being one of the most intelligent men in the world. Eventually this led him to his creation of the theory of relativity to the advancement of modern scientific physics.
Albert Einstein was not always successful, he came across obstacles and hardships that would hold absolutely anyone else from achieving phenomenally. To begin with a little history, Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, but grew up and obtained his early education in Munich. As a young child, he was not able to speak until he was four years old, and not fluently until he was nine. While he struggled with language, he also performed very poorly academically in school due to his slow learning process. Most of his teachers believed that he was mentally handicaped and would never accomplish much. Gladwell claims, “It is not the brightest who succeed…nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (Gladwell 267). This represents that this did not stop Einstein from pursuing a higher education, as well as his fascination with the laws of nature even after his scholarly difficulties. Progressing further into his youth, Einstein had a journal in which he described his encounters with the two ‘wonders’. These wonders were a compass and a geometry book that have strongly influenced his further way of life. The first wonder, a compass was discovered when he was five years old. He was mystified that invisible forces could deflect the needle. This would lead to his lifelong fascination with unseen forces. The second wonder came at age twelve when he discovered a book of geometry, which he worshipped, calling it his ‘holy geometry book” (Howell). This was also around the time he started to excel in math and sciences, as hard work truly pays off. Einstein rebelled against the authoritarian attitude of some of his teachers and dropped out of school at sixteen. He later took an entrance exam for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, and while his performances in physics and math were excellent, his marks in other areas were subpar, and he did not pass the exam. Though, he developed a passion for classical music and playing the violin, which would stay with him into his later years. Most significantly, Einstein’s youth was marked by deep inquisitiveness and inquiry.
As for Albert Einstein’s friends and family, Einstein’s parents were Jewish and middle-class. His father, Hermann Einstein, was both an engineer and a featherbed salesman, and later ran an electrochemical factory with moderate success. His mother, Pauline Koch, ran the family household. Even though he came from a Jewish background, he did not partake in Jewish practices. Einstein was raised a Catholic and became deeply religious at age twelve, even composing several songs in praise of God. But, this began to change after he read science books that contradicted his religious beliefs. Yet another important influence on Einstein was a young medical student, Max Talmud. Talmud became an informal tutor, introducing Einstein to higher mathematics and philosophy. This was around the time Einstein also wrote his first scientific paper. Einstein’s education was disrupted by his father’s repeated failures at business. Gladwell exclaims that, “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 serves as an explanation that in a way, Einstein’s background and family practices stuck with him till the very end. After graduating in 1900, he continued to search for a job for two consistent years until the father of his university classmate, Marcel Grossmann, helped him get employed as an assistant examiner at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property in Bern, Switzerland. At the patent office, Einstein was responsible for evaluating patent submissions for a variety of inventions. His friends and family were an overall influence on him which gave him opportunities to try new things and pursue what he believes in primarily based off intelligence and support.
The year of 1905 is called the “miracle year” of Albert Einstein. The reason for this was that he wrote four papers printed in a scientific journal called the “Annalen der Physik” that contributed significantly to the groundwork of modern physics and completely changed the view on space, time, mass, and energy (AstrumPeople). Those specific papers were on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special theory of relativity, and mass-energy equivalence, and of course, the famous equation of E=mc^2. As Einstein went on to become a professor at the University in Zurich, he would later show to the world about his natural talent, work, and a chance to prove his peers, teachers, and other scientists wrong who ridiculed him. Most importantly, he won a Nobel Prize award in 1921 for his contribution toward the photoelectric effect. For instance, Gladwell asserted, “The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with” (Gladwell 137). Albert Einstein is truly a product of his time and made the best out of his opportunities by proving to everyone who had doubted him that he indeed had a brilliant mind.
In conclusion, despite all of Einstein’s rejections and setbacks from people, even the educational system, he continued to fight for what he believed in even if it meant sacrificing everything. He kept on with his studies, theories and experimentation. He worked hard his whole life, but nobody recognized his work until his theory of relativity was published. He was creative and a man with self-confidence that wasn’t afraid to prove to everyone around him what he was capable of. He became a genius not overnight, but by early self-discovery, critical reasoning, and by gaining knowledge. Einstein understood the fact that when you are different from others, people tend not to understand you, yet he was never afraid to stand alone and loved doing things his own way rather than following others. Einstein was a visionary, thinking ahead of his time and believed in impacting lives. Though his journey wasn’t an easy one, he never gave up and became a success by pursuing his dream to the very end and achieved it. This indeed makes him the ultimate Outlier.