Outliers: The Story of Success

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In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, OUTLIERS is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

What makes the best, the brightest, the most famous, and the most successful excel? The answer to the question, Malcolm Gladwell insists, resides in the culture, family, and upbringing of these high achievers. To demonstrate his point, he delves into the backgrounds of soccer players, mathematicians, software billionaires, and even John, Paul, George, and Ringo. A super stimulating read; a buoyant Barnes & Noble Bestseller, now in paperback and NOOKbook editions. (Sidebar seminar: In statistics, an outlier is an observation numerical distant and unrepresentative of the remaining data.)

David Leonhardt
has much in common with Gladwell's earlier work. It is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Journalist Gladwell has established himself on the nonfiction bestseller lists by breaking down complex social science research into approachable concepts that can spark discussion around water coolers and cafe tables. Some of Gladwell's critics fault him for zeroing in on compelling anecdotes that may not consistently add up to empirical proof, but his flair for narrative serves him well as a reader. Gladwell builds dramatic tension into his storytelling-from the unique childhood of software tycoon Bill Gates to the secrets of success found along the rice fields of ancient China and Japan-making for an engaging listening experience even though the threads may not always tie together into a seamless package. The bonus author interview features some entertaining insights, including Canadian Gladwell's explanation for why so many comedy superstars hail from America's northern neighbor. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 22). (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Internationally best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) presents a fascinating analysis of the factors that lead to success, delving into the backgrounds of business leaders, athletes, artists, and musicians to reveal how their culture, circumstance, timing, birth, and luck have all played a key role in their success. While listeners may need some time to adjust to the author's gravelly, breaking-voice narration, this popular analysis geared toward the mass market nevertheless provides an important contribution to the factors impacting human potential. Recommended for academic psychology collections and larger public libraries. [The review of the Little, Brown hc said that "libraries will need to acquire it," LJ10/1/08.-Ed.]
—Dale Farris

Kirkus Reviews
There is a logic behind why some people become successful, and it has more to do with legacy and opportunity than high IQ. In his latest book, New Yorker contributor Gladwell (Blink, 2005, etc.) casts his inquisitive eye on those who have risen meteorically to the top of their fields, analyzing developmental patterns and searching for a common thread. The author asserts that there is no such thing as a self-made man, that "the true origins of high achievement" lie instead in the circumstances and influences of one's upbringing, combined with excellent timing. The Beatles had Hamburg in 1960-62; Bill Gates had access to an ASR-33 Teletype in 1968. Both put in thousands of hours-Gladwell posits that 10,000 is the magic number-on their craft at a young age, resulting in an above-average head start. The author makes sure to note that to begin with, these individuals possessed once-in-a-generation talent in their fields. He simply makes the point that both encountered the kind of "right place at the right time" opportunity that allowed them to capitalize on their talent, a delineation that often separates moderate from extraordinary success. This is also why Asians excel at mathematics-their culture demands it. If other countries schooled their children as rigorously, the author argues, scores would even out. Gladwell also looks at "demographic luck," the effect of one's birth date. He demonstrates how being born in the decades of the 1830s or 1930s proved an enormous advantage for any future entrepreneur, as both saw economic booms and demographic troughs, meaning that class sizes were small, teachers were overqualified, universities were looking to enroll and companies were looking foremployees. In short, possibility comes "from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with." This theme appears throughout the varied anecdotes, but is it groundbreaking information? At times it seems an exercise in repackaged carpe diem, especially from a mind as attuned as Gladwell's. Nonetheless, the author's lively storytelling and infectious enthusiasm make it an engaging, perhaps even inspiring, read. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
The Herald Sun
"This third book by the author gets under the skin of glib truths we've believed about success. Gladwell unveils studies and similarities that point to opportunity, timing and 10,000 hours of practice as keys to success rather than sheer talent. Gladwell's voice combines knowledgeable professor and gifted storyteller."
David Leonhardt
In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today...Outliers is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward.
New York Times Book Review
Gregory Kirschling
The explosively entertaining Outliers might be Gladwell's best and most useful work yet...There are both brilliant yarns and life lessons here: Outliers is riveting science, self-help, and entertainment, all in one book.
Entertainment Weekly
Atlanta Journal Constitution
"No other book I read this year combines such a distinctive prose style with truly thought-provoking content. Gladwell writes with a high degree of dazzle but at the same time remains as clear and direct as even Strunk or White could hope for."
David Leonhardt - New York Times Book Review
"In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today...Outliers is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward."
Gregory Kirschling - Entertainment Weekly
"The explosively entertaining Outliers might be Gladwell's best and most useful work yet...There are both brilliant yarns and life lessons here: Outliers is riveting science, self-help, and entertainment, all in one book."
From the Publisher
"Like his previous work, THE TIPPING POINT, BLINK is a thought-provoking, category-defying book. The audio is read by the author with care and conviction."—AudioFile Magazine

"....[Gladwell's] flair for narrative serves him well as a reader. Gladwell builds dramatic tension into his storytelling from the unique childhood of software tycoon Bill Gates to the secrets of success found along the rice fields of ancient China and Japan making for an engaging listening experience...."—Publishers Weekly

"Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that authors can effectively read their own books by turning in a well-crafted, subtle performance. His slightly husky upper-register voice is calm and assured, and he knows exactly where to pause, provide emphasis, and how to deliver a punch line."—AudioFile

"Gladwell pulls double duty as author and narrator...the material is frequently astonishing, and his reading is clear, heartfelt, and makes for genuinely pleasurable listening."—Publishers Weekly

The Barnes & Noble Review
It's not uncommon, reading a newspaper or watching television, to learn that science has just discovered something everyone already knows. Often it sounds like awful stand-up: "Men, women different, finds ten-month toilet-seat study" or "Drunk researchers: 'Beer goggles' real." If Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success were pared down to a headline, it would be "Gladwell: Life Unfair."

This isn't strictly a criticism. The mechanisms of life's unfairness are fascinating, and Gladwell does a mostly good job of reverse-engineering them. His thesis is: "[I]t is not the brightest who succeed.... The successful are those who have been given opportunities -- and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them." Few would argue with this, or be surprised by it, but many will be enchanted by the curious assortment of examples he uses to bolster it. Whether they'll be put off by his logical contradictions and obfuscations is another matter.

The first of Gladwell's examples concerns hockey. It turns out that given "any elite group of hockey players...40 percent of the players will have been born between January and March." The reason for this is about as mind-blowing as the Masonic symbols on a dollar bill: The selection pool is made up of subjects born in a calendar year. Players born toward the beginning of the year have months of practice and development on those born toward the end.

The process could be made more egalitarian by confining the selection pool to, say, a month, or a day. Gladwell would settle for "two or even three hockey leagues, divided up by month of birth." Such an arrangement may be in the interest of boys who want to play hockey, but what about the officials being asked to administer and coach three times as many teams?

It never occurs to Gladwell that scouting talent isn't about fairness or self-esteem; it's about putting excellent players in the rink. Later in the book he arrives at the concept of good enough, the fact that above a particular IQ threshold, the success of one subject is as likely as the success of another. Why has he not also arrived at the similar concept of fair enough, the fact that there comes a point of diminishing returns in trying to achieve total equality of opportunity?

Gladwell sees unfairness everywhere, but particularly in education. He proposes that the "good enough" threshold be used in college admissions: Everyone scoring higher than X on standardized tests should be subjected to selection by lottery. He then states, in apparent contradiction of his proposal, "If intelligence matters only up to a point, then past that point, other things...must start to matter more." (So why leave them to chance?) Creativity, he suggests, could be measured with something called a "divergence test."

Or -- may I propose a less novel method? -- something called a "college essay."

Gladwell uses the term "outlier" to refer to a remarkable person -- or, rather, a person who seems remarkable but is in fact the beneficiary of dumb luck. In statistics, an outlier is a data point far enough from the mean as to be statistically misleading, not statistically explanatory.

Yet Gladwell purports to decipher the whole from the outlying part. Consider some of his examples: the Beatles, Bill Joy, and Bill Gates. All three support the "10,000-Hour Rule" propounded by Gladwell later in his book: Nobody who succeeds does so without 10,000 hours of practice. The Beatles put in their time at a Hamburg club where they were made to perform eight hours a night. Joy and Gates, too, were products of unusual circumstances affording them an unprecedented amount of programming time.

Gladwell allows that ability is important, but argues that opportunity is paramount. Here he commits the logical fallacy that deep-sixes his thesis. Talent without opportunity will yield limited or no achievement. Fine, but what will opportunity without talent yield? What would you or I do with 10,000 hours at a primitive computer terminal? Probably cry our eyes out.

Further, Gladwell doesn't ask whether the stamina to do anything for 10,000 hours is itself a kind of innate ability. He takes it on faith that any talented person, given 420 days with a hockey stick, computer, glockenspiel, or Moleskine notebook would stride into the annals of genius. An early definition of giftedness set forth by Joseph Renzulli required the intersection of three traits. Two were creativity and above-average ability. What was the third? Task commitment.

The Beatles, as the Hamburg example suggests, had task commitment cold. The thing is, they also had more creativity than their contemporaries. Surely Gladwell understands that every touring band -- Herman's Hermits, to pick one at random -- got in 10,000 hours of performing time. They had nothing on a true outlier, a band towering so high above the competition that no normal metric could explain it.

Here is the most telling slip-up in Outliers, in a passage about Steve Jobs. "Wait. Bill Hewlett gave him spare parts? That's on par with Bill Gates getting unlimited access to a time-share terminal at age thirteen." No. The incredible thing isn't that young Steve was given spare parts. It's that he asked for them. It was "lucky" that Bill Hewlett said yes to his request, but how many young people demonstrate that kind of initiative, that fearless impulse to make their own luck?

The reader is breathlessly informed that all the giants of the computing and software revolution were born around the same time. Luck! This is a case of circular logic: These men could hardly have participated in the tech revolution without being present for it. (Suspicious, isn't it, that none of these Silicon Valley tycoons was born in the 19th century?)

One fact Gladwell determinedly ignores is that genius lies in using the advantages to hand. Men as brilliant as Joy, Gates, and Jobs -- and John, Paul, and George -- could work with their circumstances because they could have worked with nearly any circumstances. He is correct to say that one's background plays a role in success. He is at his best when showing that Asians inherited a culture of hard work from the year-round agriculture of the rice paddy, and that they owe their heightened mathematical ability to the linguistic accident that number words in Asian languages are shorter than in European ones. But that explains a group's advantage, not an individual's.

Life really isn't fair. Some come of age on the cusp of great paradigm shifts. Some are born on January 1st and have hockey sticks stuffed through the bars of their cribs. And some are Asian. But only outliers outlie. Lots of people were born on February 24, 1955, Steve Jobs's birthday. Many infants have the good fortune to be born on January 1st in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Lord knows, Asians are Asia's most plentiful export. Why aren't all of them showing us up? Why aren't we playing hockey on Mars by now?

Perhaps because Gladwell has focused on the circumstances of individual "outliers," less so their remarkable outlying traits. Accidents are accidental, but to capitalize on them takes something extra. --Stefan Beck

A writer living in Palo Alto, California, Stefan Beck has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, The Weekly Standard, The New Criterion, and other publications.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316017923
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 11/18/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 44,627
  • Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He was formerly a business and science reporter at the Washington Post.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 3, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      England, U.K.
    1. Education:
      University of Toronto, History degree, 1984

Table of Contents

Introduction The Roseto Mystery: "These people were dying of old age. That's it" 3

Pt. 1 Opportunity

1 The Matthew Effect: "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." - Matthew 25:29 15

2 The 10,000-Hour Rule: "In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours" 35

3 The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1: "Knowledge of a boy's IQ is of little help if you are faced with a formful of clever boys" 69

4 The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2: "After protracted negotiations, it was agreed that Robert would be put on probation" 91

5 The Three Lessons of Joe Flom: "Mary got a quarter." 116

Pt. 2 Legacy

6 Harlan, Kentucky: "Die like a man, like your brother did!" 161

7 The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes: "Captain, the weather radar has helped us a lot" 177

8 Rice Paddies and Math Tests: "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich" 224

9 Marita's Bargain: "All my friends now are from KIPP" 250

Epilogue: A Jamaican Story: "If a progeny of young colored children is brought forth, these are emancipated" 270

Notes 287

Acknowledgments 297

Index 301

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1275 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1288 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Hard work and emotional intelligence

    I've always been curious about the archetypal "overachieving" type; the person with a 4.0 GPA, supplemented with a vast resume of extracurriculars and seemingly guaranteed placement at some selective, elite institution. They seem to effortlessly master their studies, creating a very bothersome imposition in the back of my mind that made me feel inadequate. For awhile, I felt that there was something innate these certain individuals possessed, hardening my fatalistic perspective about the world and making me question my own self-worth.

    Gladwell essentially put everything into perspective for me. People aren't just born "with it." The typical stories describing the ascent to success by prominent individuals oftentimes, if not always, obscure the social, cultural, economic, institutional and fortuitous elements that allow that person to rise in the first place. This book, replete with credible substantiations, investigates the lives of many successful people, like Bill Gates and Joe Flom, and show how particular environmental factors and fortunate circumstances led to the realization of these individuals' potential. The story of success is always more complex than the simple tales of "rags to riches." This book comprehensively examines not just individuals, but systems (like public education), and stereotypes (such as Asians being good at math) to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of what provides the proper foundation for high achievement.

    Though, let me be clear: this book does *NOT* suggest that sheer hard work is somehow irrelevant, or weakly relevant (i.e. "it's all luck"), in one's pursuit of success. To the contrary, this book emphatically illustrates how crucial hard work is to the fulfillment of success. The book, however, indicates that hard work goes hand-in-hand with opportunity. Your intellectual potential might have you be a great computer programmer, mathematician, or businessman. Unfortunately, it might very well go to waste without the resources needed to foster the development of such potential. There's no point in having a warehouse of hardy seeds without the fertile soil to plant them in.

    This book has inspired me to push onward with my studies, to work incredibly hard towards mastery of subject material and to seek opportunity and claim it upon arrival. Highly recommended book!

    Another on the subject I tore through recently and recommend strongly in addition to Gladwell's book, because it's great and it includes an online test of your emotional intelligence is, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

    81 out of 85 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2008

    A Further Exlanation

    It's true, the primary premise of Gladwell's Outliers is that success is not about what we are told its about. It¿s also true that this idea isn't anything new. But if you're on the fence about buying this one, you should consider a few other truths about the work. <BR/><BR/>The "successful" people that Gladwell is referring to in Outliers are not the garden variety "he's a successful dentist" types. An Outlier is not someone who made something of themselves in the sense that they earn above average income, drive high-line cars, and make six or seven figures. Nor is he referring to wealth alone as a measure of success (J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of his Outliers). He is talking about real - out there on the edge alone - success. The Beatles kind of success, Bill Gates kind of success, so take with a grain of salt reviews that bash The book for being unoriginal or for not providing useful information on "how to" become successful. <BR/><BR/>Clarification: Reading Outliers wont help you become an outlier anymore than reading Blink will make you a better thin slicer - but his section on scholastic sports and "gifted" classes in grade school may make you hold your kid back a year to dramatically change their lives in a positive way.<BR/><BR/>What this book is useful for is its further explanation and revelation of the true cause of something (extreme success in this case) and a pattern that has developed to explain it that has nothing to do with reality. Gladwell's research is as solid as ever; interesting as ever; and I recommend the book as worth the purchase price. I couldn't put it down, I took notes, underlined passages, then read it again; all without a twinge of buyer¿s remorse.

    28 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    His weakest book yet...

    I like Malcolm Gladwell BUT I think this is his weekest book yet. I thought his previous books were thought provoking, but this one just didn't do it for me. The more I read his work, the more he tries to peg people in a particular hole to fit his theories. If you are not one to think for yourself this maybe the book for you.

    21 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    What Price Success?

    All of Gladwell's books have been fascinating reads! This book is making me think about my own growing up years/culture/class background, and the impact on my life decisions. It makes me think about decisions I've made regarding my children, and how my husband and I bring our different life stories to bear on this. Gladwell has a way of presenting social psychology through a very engaging format. The main thesis of this book is that success is an accumulation of advantages, coupled with the "10,000 hour rule." The book does get to be repetitive, but is entertaining enough to make it feel worth it. I didn't alway agree with his perspective, however. An example is in presenting the KIPP schools, and the role of the extensive hours devoted to studies as a meaure of the success of the students. What bothered me about this is that it does not take into consideration the cultural context of the students, and whether this success comes at too great a cost. I would have liked to see the "you can be successful if you put in 10,000 hours" tempered by also raising the question of whether the "success" is really worth it and what such success means in terms of one's identity, value system, or other lost opportunities.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    Interesting but author promotes redistribution of wealth

    Gladwell presents very interesting and insightful information in the first few chapters which were quite interesting. However, as I read further, it was increasingly evident Gladwell has an obvious left wing agenda which contaminates some of his very interesting findings. It was especially evident when he mentioned a study which showed black graduates of Michigan Law School ,despite having much lower grades in colleges and LSAT scores are as successful as their white fellow graduates. His premise is there is a threshold of talent or IQ which must be met to be at the top of a chosen field or profession. He rightfully states how much time those who meet the this threshold practice or study is as important as natural talent or IQ. He then promotes the idea that a school like Harvard should set a threshold and then choose who is admitted by a lottery. But there are well known problems with this approach. To meet standards of political correctness, there have numerous cases where the threshold was set artificially or ridiculously low to ensure the "correct" percentages of each race enters the school or the job in question. In addition, how could anyone guarantee the "lottery" is a real lottery. The study he sites uses some criteria which are very subjective. I liked his book until I realized he is an Obama type, who is bright, convincing but in the end has an agenda of redistribution of income ,power, prestige etc. Sorry Malcolm I should have left the book in B&N when I saw you are a staff writer for the New Yorker.

    8 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2008


    I have not even finished the book, but I am so captivated that I can hardly put it down. I tell everyone I know what a great book it is because I find it useful on so many levels. It makes me think of both my personal professional growth and my parenting skills, and it gives me ideas for ways to improve upon both of them. <BR/><BR/>I am always impressed by Gladwell's ability to break down what appears to be a simple concept into different equally important layers that I never would have considered. The reasearch is impeccable, and the conclusions make practical, realistic sense. If you are someone who associates and/or works with people of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, the evidence of Gladwell's conclusions are obvious. <BR/><BR/>I absolutely recommend this book to everyone. It is AWESOME!!!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Love this Book

    I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I actually started with this book and then read the rest of his previous works. This is a fantastic read. I was a psychology major so it was very relevant to what I had studied as well as everyday life. Outliers examines how those individuals who achieved success were a product of their environments and life circumstances. On the one hand it's disappointing to think that hard work isn't enough but on the other hand I like the idea that sometimes if someone fails to succeed it isn't because they didn't work hard enough or that they weren't qualified, it might just be a product of their circumstances. I love the way Gladwell uses scientific experiments to justify his claims. It gives more validity to the book than if it were just his ideas.

    Because of this book I have a more positive outlook on things. I've been inspired to find my strengths in the cards that life has dealt me and to focus on those strengths rather than waste time on ambitions that may never be realized.

    If only I were born in a recession! and not trying to succeed at a career in one ;)

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Theories Of Success

    In Outliers, The Story Of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shows research that puts forward the theory that success is a combination of factors. While intelligence plays a large part, so do birth order, cultural assumptions, and above all hard work. Individuals must have the ability to see opportunities and then have the skills to take advantage of them.

    One of the earliest chapters focuses on professional hockey players. They are overwhelmingly born in the first three months of the year. Inexplicable coincidence? No, more likely that this phenomenon is the result of age cutoffs in sports teams, so that those born in January, February and March are usually the oldest on their teams, so more developed and more likely to be noticed. Those noticed are picked for more advanced teams where they get more training, better coaching and more practice and playing time, all of which give them the opportunity to become better players than those who are left on their first skill level teams.

    This plays out over and over again when trends are seen. The dot-com millionaires? Almost all were born from 1952-1955, when the computer was first introduced to the public, and kids in schools could get hours upon hours of programming time. Successful musicians? Most practice hundreds more hours than those who just never quite make it to the top. Both groups are talented, but one group takes advantage of opportunities and hard work to develop that talent.

    In one study, bright children in California were tested and tracked for over forty years. Although all started in the brightest groups, by adulthood they had fallen into the superstars, the average and those who didn't quite make it. Luck of the draw? That assumption can be challenged when the facts show that those in the bottom group almost overwhelmingly had parents who were uninvolved in their lives and who didn't help their children focus and refine their talents. Parenting styles seem to make a big difference.

    Gladwell has written a thought-provoking book. His thesis can be summed up in this quote: "...success follows a predictable course. 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 the strength and presence of mind to seize them. ...To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success--the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history--with a society that provides opportunities for all." This book is recommended for readers that are interested in learning how the world works and how we might improve it.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Extremely insightful

    I really enjoyed this book. It points out the fallacy of "talent" and really explains what results in success versus failure. I highly recommend this book (and I don't usually do that).

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    Senior English Letter to the Author... cont.

    I also found the data employed in this chapter to be misleading. Considering how few people have the IQs you reference, it is essentially impossible to get enough data to make reliable conclusions. Just because factors like emotional intelligence matter should not discount the value of actual or intellectual intelligence. In fact, if IQ is such a crude measurement system (which most people realize), then why use it at all to "prove" your theory? The idea that Einstein's level of intelligence was not that important to his success simply disregards reality. Unfortunately, this chapter, with its labored attempts to prove that we all have what it takes - that the smart kids are no better - seems to me like a bit of sophistry that once again makes people feel better about themselves and has undoubtedly resulted in the widespread embrace of this book in our school system that is soft and overly-sensitive when it comes to success and failure.

    The ideas explained in "The Matthew Effect" did seem to hold some water, however, and I could relate. My school district has an enrichment program that tests students to see if they are eligible in the early years of elementary school. Once in the program, you basically do not leave. Not that we are in high school, it is very clear that many of the students in the program do not belong there. At the time we were tested, age certainly made a difference. In fact, for the first several years of the program, I remember that all of the students in it (myself included) were among the oldest in their respective grades. This was probably the best chapter in the book, as you backed up your claims very well. While reading it, I questioned whether I still belong in the enrichment program many times. It was an interesting point to make, and it did give me a bit of a new perspective.

    Despite the aspects of the book I did not like, I do appreciate that you attempt to answer the question of success. Frankly, I feel that it is unanswerable. It certainly is a fascinating topic.

    Michael Gildin

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    Senior English Letter to the Author

    Mr. Gladwell,
    My Senior English class has just recently read your book Outliers. The focus of our class and its curriculum is to pursue an essential question and apply it to our studies to give us greater perspective. The particular question my class must evaluate throughout the semester is "to what extent do time and place define a person?" Your book has been an excellent choice for the class, as it reflects upon the themes of time and place quite often. Throughout the book, you elaborate upon the idea that talent is not necessarily an innate quality in and of itself. Instead, you stress that often luck is a factor, mainly in the form of a person's timing or the culture they come from. Outliers are more often than not the result of elements that are out of their control, as you explain.

    One chapter that stood out to me was "The 10,000-Hour Rule." This chapter highlighted the necessity of hard work in achieving success, but it was interesting and surprising that you assigned a specific number to it. The examples of Bill Gates and the Beatles explained your point. For Bill Gates, in particular, the themes of time and place fit very well. He was born at such a time that computers were just becoming more of a present force when Gates reached maturity. Random events allowed him to have essentially uninterrupted access to high-end technology, which was further made possible by the lack of large-scale computer fluency during this time. Were Gates born at a different time or place, he would not have had access to all of these tools and advantages that allowed him to complete his 10,000 hours (even though the explanations provided did seem a bit revisionist). Practice does make perfect, I guess.

    I had a difficult time connecting with the chapter "Marita's Bargain." It seemed as though the stress Marita faced was being pushed as a positive. For disadvantaged students such as her, I do agree that the KIPP schools do a great job of making them rise above their socio-economic situations. However, do you feel that this sufficiently addresses the problem? To me, it seems more like a band-aid. I feel that a lot of the point of this chapter was strained in order to get across to us that underprivileged children are still smart. Which is not to say that isn't true - it is just overstated in this chapter. I also find it curious that in the case of children like Marita, time and place suddenly does not matter. How is she able to overcome her disadvantages and inherent "bad luck" so easily? You offer a rather politically correct explanation, something that people in our time (especially those higher on the socioeconomic ladder) love to hear in order to feel better about themselves. I am a huge supporter of education and equal opportunity for everyone, but even I thought this chapter felt a little forced.

    I also found myself disagreeing with the ideas presented in the chapter on IQ. Your essential argument is that intelligence is not really a factor in success beyond a certain point, and in fact that it is not really a deciding factor at all. The example of Christopher Langan's genius-level IQ but strangely "unsuccessful" life is interesting, but it is merely an anecdote that I do not believe can be the basis for the sweeping generalities you make. The chapter seemed guilty of forcibly adapting the theory once the necessary outlier had been found. (Cont. in next review)

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers

    An outlier is one who has reached achievement in a way that was given as only a chance for them to take. Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, is a captivating written work by involving many real life situations. Not only does it involve Gladwell's own inferences on the success of life, but with the aid of real scenarios that help prove his point. The initial reaction to the word, outlier is not that of Gladwell's. Throughout the book, the meaning of the word outlier to Gladwell, is expressed as people who are those who have been given opportunities, and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.
    The book is a guideline and proof of how success is reached. The theme guides Gladwell into motivating subject. He starts with the point that professional athletes are where they are at because of when their birthday falls in the year. The ones with birthdays at the beginning of the year have an advantage with size and therefore more practice times and better teams are given to them from the initiation. Gladwell believes that, "Success is the result of what sociologists like to call accumulative advantage" (30 Gladwell). With charts of the professional athletes birthdates, he proves his point.
    Gladwell continues the idea by explaining that success is not just handed to individuals. A computer programmer doesn't just already have the knowledge of how to create life long used software from the day they were born. The practice and hard work, is requisite to acquire the skill. From this Gladwell, comes up with the ten thousand hours rule. After questioning many of today's profitable people, one being Bill Gates, Gladwell finds out that all of those people practiced what had made them who they are today for at least ten thousand hours, "The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything" (40 Gladwell).
    This book wasn't just loaded with interesting facts. With encouraging advice the book, provided examples and research of ways that accomplishments can be reached. By starting out in life with the highest IQ, isn't always the lead way to getting ahead. Gladwell talked about studies done on those who started life with the higher intelligence and ended up nowhere.
    Gladwell almost gives a sense of hope for those who are average in intelligence. That is why I recommend this book; because of Gladwell's reasoning that success comes from opportunity, excess of hard work, some start of intelligence not necessarily the highest, and lastly support. "Successful people don't do it alone. Where they come from matters. They're products of particular places and environments" (119 Gladwell). By reading this, it made me enjoy the book, and words from Gladwell. I agreed with his theories at all times. The matters that he had brought up, I had never thought about before. From this it gave me a new view of success and was encouragement for myself to work for it in my own life. With the sense of what it takes for an accomplishment, it makes the reader want to learn more of how to do it and that they aren't as far away from it as they might have thought. For that reason, is why all readers should read this book, because it puts a true meaning on life and where one can lead their own path into the future.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    Excuse me!

    The whole premise is that if you're not born at the precise "right" moment you will not be sucessful. This is a great book for those losers in life who need an excuse for not being successful! He makes some interesting arguments but I don't buy into his premise.

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    very thought provoking...makes you look at any situation or person in a different light. He gets a little long winded with some of his stories and examples. At times I found myself skipping ahead thinking "ok, I get it already". I find myself using the phrase "outliers" in general conversation...so it definately has a "sticky" factor. I recommend all of his books. I got these on audio for my weekly road trips. I especially like hearing them in the writers voice.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    Outliers is a Scope to a New Outlook

    First off, Outliers is a great read and I think everyone from all backgrounds or professions should read it. It's more of one of those "universal" books.

    The first thing I noticed about the book is that Gladwell REALLY did his research here. It began to seem as though the book were more about statistics and reviews rather than his own opinions, however maybe I'm wrong and I was missing the big picture. The extensive amount of quotes baffles me and they all flow nicely. I really liked how Gladwell makes everything into lament's terms no matter how complicated it may be, and then he reviews over what is happening as he makes his stories out of quotes and statistics.

    Overall, great read and an interesting book and I hope more people get a hold of it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    This is an amazing, and very interesting book. I had to read it

    This is an amazing, and very interesting book. I had to read it for one of my college classes, and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, and everyone I've met who's read this book is impressed. It's worth reading. :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    Great Book

    What makes the best and brightest of people become successful? Outliers: The Story of Success is one of the most intriguing and eye opening books I have read in quite some time. Malcolm Gladwell attempts to dissect the reason behind success in multiple real life situations. I found myself amazed at some of the things I read and have a new definition of what success really is in my own mind. This book will appeal any age group as there is much to learn through stories of others. Gladwell made it clear to me that people are not born “with it.” Could it be possible that the time of year that someone is born has a direct correlation to the best hockey players in the world? The story of success is always more complex than the simple tales of "rags to riches." Not only does this book focus on individuals but stereotypes being answered such as Asians being good at math. Have you ever thought of what makes the people around you more successful? With lots of research and thoughtful thinking Gladwell has been able to dig deep and bring answers to these questions through this interesting book. Must read

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    Its not as simple as that.

    In Outliers, Gladwell tries to pinpoint the logic behind people's success. According to Gladwell, no longer does success stream from high IQ or self-intelligence, but more from a legacy and luck. As Gladwell puts it "it's being in the right place at the right time". In a nutshell - opportunity + hard work = success
    According to Outliers, achieving success is solving a formula, but can achieving success be as clear-cut as this? Of course not.
    Personally, I couldn't really get into this book. Though it did have some very interesting points I had not thought of, the book runs off on way to many tangents that only lead to illogical conclusions with a deep lack of practical intelligence.
    As a writer, Gladwell has a comfortable and flowing writing style. Though outliers is an engaging read at times, I would stay away unless I want to get bombarded with illogical conclusions and boring unrelated facts.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    read this book its food 4 thought and compelling

    if u jus starting a family or have children this is the book 4 u this book is telling u how2 b successful and when u read it u will kno its not sun over the night thing it takes work and the younger u start the more likely u will be successful parents read this book and start ur kids on the path 2 success.

    2 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    This isn't a new story for scholars, but it is a great presentation of it.

    There is plenty of research in the field of resiliency that tells us that children who survive and thrive despite extraordinary difficulties do so because of some element in their external environment that worked in their favor. The disappointment: super heroes they are not. The good news: average people can step in and make a difference. Very good news indeed. While scholars might not find much meat to chew on here, anyone outside the field will love it. And it reinforces my belief that all scholarly topics should be edited by a top journalist - hate to say it (sorry to my people!) but for enjoyment's sake, I much prefer reading a journalist's book on a scholarly topic than a academic's book. Gladwell's a great writer, and unless this is your field, you're not only going to enjoy reading the book, you'll learn a lot too!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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