What is Gladwell's claim in Chapter 5?

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Gladwell's claim in Chapter Five is that a successful entrepreneur is the product of his place and relevance in a specific time period.

Gladwell cites the example of the New York Jewish lawyer. He claims that 1930 was the perfect year for a Jewish lawyer to be born:

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Gladwell's claim in Chapter Five is that a successful entrepreneur is the product of his place and relevance in a specific time period.

Gladwell cites the example of the New York Jewish lawyer. He claims that 1930 was the perfect year for a Jewish lawyer to be born:

Just as there is a perfect birth date for a nineteenth-century business tycoon, and a perfect birth date for a software tycoon, there is a perfect birth date for a New York Jewish law­yer as well. It's 1930, because that would give the lawyer the benefit of a blessedly small generation.

Gladwell cites the example of successful and influential Jewish lawyers born during this period. The Black Rock law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, and Katz perfectly exemplifies Gladwell's points. During their childhood years, most of these Jewish lawyers had parents or grandparents who worked in the world-class garment industry in New York City. In their youth, these lawyers also attended exclusively New York City public schools, then the envy of the world where public schools were concerned.

In fact, Gladwell cites the typical profile of the successful New York lawyer: he must have been born in the early 1930s, he must have had parents who worked in the "economically vibrant" garment industry in New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he must have, on account of his "antecedents," been an outsider who was able to grasp the opportunities afforded him in the time period he lived.

"There is no doubt that those Jewish immigrants arrived at the perfect time, with the perfect skills," says the sociologist Stephen Steinberg. "To exploit that oppor­tunity, you had to have certain virtues, and those immi­grants worked hard."

To come to New York City in the 1890s with a background in dressmaking or sewing or Schnittwaren Handlung was a stroke of extraordinary good fortune. It was like showing up in Silicon Valley in 1986 with ten thousand hours of computer programming already under your belt.

If you want to be a great New York lawyer, it is an advantage to be an outsider, and it is an advantage to have parents who did meaningful work, and, better still, it is an advantage to have been born in the early 1930s. But if you have all three advantages—on top of a good dose of ingenuity and drive—then that's an unstoppable combination. That's like being a hockey player born on January 1.

As Gladwell claims, "Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and oppor­tunities." So, aside from intelligence, perseverance, and courage being necessary ingredients for success, Gladwell maintains that one's background and demographic luck matters very much in determining whether one is ultimately successful or not.

 

 

 
 

 

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