What Kind of Milk Are You? – Twenty Fifth Book Wrap Up

The title of this month’s blog post is related to an interesting discussion we had about our second book, “Outliers”. But before we get to that, let’s dive into the girls’ thoughts on our first book this month: “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?”.

We chose this book to complement the upcoming election, which has now come and gone. I, for one, was hoping it would get my political juices flowing, and lead to some valuable talk amongst the group on current issues. While the book was a little broader than that, it certainly did get people thinking. Why do some people choose not to vote? Is it because they don’t think their voice matters? Or is it because that particular issue doesn’t impact their lives? Or is it lack of clarity around what the issue is, and how the candidate proposes to solve it through complicated laws that the layman can’t understand? We all had our own opinions on the first two reasons, but thought it interesting that author Andy Andrews provided a simple solution to the third: research. He said if you want to uncover the truth behind those complicated laws, you simply need to read up on the issues on the internet, and there are vast resources out there to do so. Overall, this book was a hit among most of the girls!

Moving on to “Outliers”, we once again had a lively conversation about what it means to succeed. While some thought it downplayed the notion of “inner drive”, we focused a lot on the fact that Gladwell discovered that “there are no naturals and no grinds”. What this means is that anyone with a decently high IQ has the ability to be successful if they are given the same opportunities. This is where Julie offered her mother’s words of wisdom – “what kind of milk are you?”. If you are whole milk, it takes some churning, and you will turn into butter. However, if you are skim milk, it may take a little bit more churning, but you still have the innate ability to turn into butter with the right amount of work.

In fact, Gladwell proposes that this is the exact reason why children who grow up in middle class families are often more successful in school than those who grow up in lower income families. While middle class children often spend their evenings, weekends and summers reinforcing what they learned in school, children from lower income households are not doing the same. And over the course of elementary school, this puts them significantly further behind their peers. One solution to this is the KIPP schools, which are designed to offer these children the same opportunities by having longer days, weekend classes, and shorter summers. With parents fighting for their children to go to a KIPP school, it is evident that they are doing something right.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the book:

  • “It makes a difference when and where we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine.” – pg. 19
  • “Biologists often talk about the “ecology” of an organism: the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured.” – pg. 19
  • “She spoke in the matter-of-fact way of children who have no way of knowing how unusual their situation is. She had the hours of a lawyer trying to make partner, or a medical resident. All that was missing were the dark circles under her eyes and a steaming cup of coffee, except that she was too young for either.” – pg. 265
  • “The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any ‘grinds,’ people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks.” – pg. 39

Next Book: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” by Mark Haddon