Book Review: 'The Outlier Approach: How to Triumph in Your Career as a Nonconformist' by Kevin Hong
The Outlier Approach: How to Triumph in Your Career as a Nonconformist Kevin Hong KB Media (March 2018) “Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.” Robert Kriegel
I was again reminded of the Kriegel comment as I began to work my way through Kevin Hong’s uniquely unconventional account of his nonconformist life thus far. True to form, he chose what I view as a non-fiction equivalent of what we know as the picaresque novel: an account of episodic adventures and — especially — misadventures of an appealing protagonist who moves from one social milieu to another. In this instance, Kevin Hong provides a first-person account of his journey.
After two separate round-trip relocations from South Korea to the United States, he and his family eventually settled in California. His parents urged him to become acclimated to a new country and its strange language by earning a college degree so that he would not be a cultural outlier. Instead, he dropped out of college (UC Riverside) and became actively and successfully involved in the Excel direct (multi-level) marketing organization, eventually earning about $10,000 a week; he returned to UCR to earn a degree; held several executive positions in financial services firms; founded his own company; and over time he became committed to helping as many people as possible to achieve success (however they define it) while “making a positive change in the world.”
What specifically is “the outlier approach”? Hong provides an extended response in the book. Each component of the approach is presented in a real-world situation, illustrated by one or more of Hong’s own experiences. Through a careful reading of his book, he hopes to have the same beneficial effect on his reader as others have had on him, for better or worse. I say for better or worse” because many — if not most — of the most valuable lessons learned in life are from setbacks, betrayals, and disappointments. That is certainly true of Hong. He is certain to remain a lifelong learner.
Here are a few examples:
“In many ways, I am merely a product of my environment.” “I was fortunate enough to learn early as a salesperson that everyone buys into your beliefs with a different agenda.” “Flip your weaknesses into strengths.” “Always prepare for the worst.” “Never start a fight. But always finish it.” “Every challenge is an opportunity.” “If you can find out what someone’s needs are, you can always win them over.” “When you are curious about someone’s culture, you are saying ‘I want to get to know you better.'” From Vince Lombardi: “Winning is not everything but wanting to win is.”
There is much to consider when juxtaposing a Helen Keller observation (“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”) in combination with another by Steven Wright: “The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.” Obviously, the outlier approach is not for everyone. Throughout his life thus far, Kevin Hong has made hundreds of decisions. Some have worked well, others haven’t. My guess is that he agrees with both Keller and Wright as well as with Lombardi.
In this book, he has shared what he has learned and now readers must make their own decisions, not only about the book’s content but also about what they really (I mean REALLY) want in life and how willing they are to make whatever sacrifices may be required to get it.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.