Posted on 5/4/2009 by Leadership Network in the
Outliers is subtitled, “The Story of Success.” As always, Malcolm Gladwell looks at life and brings fresh and surprising insights. As much as I loved Tipping Point, I think Outliers is Malcolm’s best book to date. His writing style is growing sharper and each chapter brought new and intriguing insights about what really leads to success. With every new facet of the book, I found myself gaining great insight to sources of success that I had never really thought about.
In the section, The Roseto Mystery, Gladwell investigates a town of Immigrants who left Roseto Italy in the 1880s and 1890s to come to America. Most of these people settled in one area of Pennsylvania which they eventually named after the town they come from in the old world. The new Roseto looked very much like their old town, everyone in it spoke Italian, and in the early 1900s it was a little island (like any other small immigrant towns around that part of America) unto itself.
Where the story gets interesting is in the 1950s. A doctor in the region of Roseto commented to a researcher that he rarely found anyone from that area who dealt with heart disease. At that time there were many people researching heart disease so this presented a mystery worth investigating. Also, at that time, before cholesterol lowering drugs, many men died young because of heart disease. As the research was done, sure enough, this little community had staggeringly healthy hearts. The heart disease in men was shockingly low compared to the surrounding area and national averages. The team researched the diet of these people, their exercise patterns, and all the usual suspects when it comes to heart disease. To their surprise, there were no dietary behavior or normal health pattern that surfaced to indicate why these people were so healthy. They finally concluded it was not a physical dynamic.
I’ll let you read the whole story in the book, but here was the conclusion. Their health was positively impacted because of their commitment to community. They shared meals together, sat on porches in the evenings, talked and laughed. They greeted each other warmly as they met in the streets. The people in the town of Roseto seemed to really love each other, care for each other, and function as a big family.
What a message for our day and age. Medicine seems to be the answer for everything. The mystery of Roseto reinforces a simple truth God has been trying to get us to see from the beginning of time. We were made for community. Grasping this truth just might add years to our lives.
Kevin G. Harney