Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell


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There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. And in revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.

In The Tipping Point Gladwell changed the way we understand the world. In Blink he changed the way we think about thinking. In OUTLIERS he transforms the way we understand success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316017930
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/07/2011
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 2,300
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the Time 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy's Top Global Thinkers.


New York, NY

Date of Birth:

September 3, 1963

Place of Birth:

England, U.K.


University of Toronto, History degree, 1984

Table of Contents


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

Part 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

Part 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


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

Notes 287

Acknowledgments 297

Index 301

Reading Group Guide 311

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Outliers 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1426 reviews.
Oscar_Aguilar More than 1 year ago
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.
_Mario_ More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.

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.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
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.
Hard2Impress More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

I absolutely recommend this book to everyone. It is AWESOME!!!
BeachGirl_in_the_Big_City More than 1 year ago
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 ;)
rriese More than 1 year ago
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).
sandiek More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Wallaroo32 More than 1 year ago
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.
csaint More than 1 year ago
This was a great insight into the world of success and the myth of the "rags to riches, I did it all by myself story." Gladwell explains that opportunities, timing, luck, & cultural legacies all play a chief role determining if a person will be successful or not. He examines the opportunities presented to Bill Joy, Bill Gates etc and shows how the most successful people in the world would not have made it if certain events didn't happen the way they did. There are so many more ppl in the world with the capability of being successful who just don't succeed due to circumstances. The story at points was a bit scattered, but the overall message of success makes it worth it.
Anna0 More than 1 year ago
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. :)
Michael_G More than 1 year ago
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)
nw_chick More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Malcolm Gladwell presents facts to support ways of thinking differing from the norm. This makes the reader think and form broader views about things like the road to success and the quality of education. The writer uses stories to keep the reader's interest. I liked the book and saw value in exploring the thoughts presented. I would recommend the book to serious readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're a thinker like me you'll like this book as well as his other work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book that confirms or gives you new incite as to what it takes to be the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting and well written like all of gladwell's books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fans of Gladwell's other books will not be disappointed. What contributed to the success of the Beatles, Bill Gates, certain rice farmers, airline pilots, Canadian hockey players (and many others)? The answers to these and other questions are all here (and they're not what you might think).
5starMV More than 1 year ago
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
bookholiday More than 1 year ago
An exceptional book- hard to put down. Enjoyed it
mls123 More than 1 year ago
"Intelligence matters only up to a point.Other things-things that have nothing to do with intelligence-must start to matter more."The "other things"the author examines are the external factors,the"X"factors, which account for personal success-these include,among many examples, the birth month of youth hockey players,the proximity of a young Bill Gates to one of the first college computer centers,the random acceptance of a child from a poor neighborhood into a charter school.Gladwell is a master storyteller, and his own "outlier" story at the book's end is gripping.An excellent book to combine with this is David Shenk: The Genius In All of Us, which examines the internal factors responsible for success.Combined, these two books explain the secrets behind high achievers.It's important to note that Gladwell is a journalist, not a social scientist. He makes sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal evidence and is highly selective in the examples he uses. Shenk's book, The Genius In All of Us, on the other hand, is well-documented;in fact,his bibliography is almost as long as his texts.Both authors agree that success is not genetically determined.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always wondered how extremely successful people have done it. I figured they were just really good at what they do and they worked really hard. Gladwell explains that, yes, they did put in 10,000 hours of hard work, but they also had many opportunities that led them to their success. Bill Gates had the opportunity to spend hours with a computer doing computer programming while he was in eighth grade. He was therefore way ahead of all his peers in the technology department and was able to create Microsoft. It's not that Bill Gates was ridiculously smarter than everybody, he just had more opportunities than them. Gladwell does a great job of explaining that success is not just how one individual worked hard to get where they are. He explains that it matters what year someone was born and where they came from. Outliers, as in the people that are so much more successful than the average person, are not necessarily the smartest ones; they are the ones that had the most opportunities. This is the first book I have read of Gladwell's and I will definitely be reading the others.
seguy52 More than 1 year ago
An outlier needs a good dose of God given talent and they need to work hard. But there are too many people who fit this description that don't become outliers. Gladwell looks at the factors that have led to the development of outliers and makes some conclusions that the circumstances surrounding their lives were more important than talent and hard work. It is an interesting read because his examples include familiar people like Bill Gates and the Beatles. It does get a little tedious as the author goes into great detail making his case that pilots sometimes need to overcome their cultural backgrounds to become successful pilots. But overall, his writing is thought provoking and applicable to us all.
hwonglam More than 1 year ago
I have always liked Malcolm Gladwell's books, and this book is no exception. I have recommended this book to my teenage children, and both of them have enjoyed the book. The book derives from many resources, and draws on many interesting anedotal evidences. While the anecdotes definitely make the book very easy to read and often very entertaining, they are nonetheless sometimes over-extended to 'prove' a point. Although I was very interested in the innovative rice-paddy hypothesis that Malcolm Gladwell proposes to explain the high success rate of Chinese children in Mathematics, I had a hard time to believe in this theory as the root cause. I say this, despite the fact that I was a good math student and graduated from an engineering school, and am of Chinese descent. Nonetheless, the many anecdotes used often substantiate the main theme of the book very well. However, compared to Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else", this book is more entertaining than authoritative. Despite these shortcomings, I still highly recommend the book, because of its motivational value and its highly readable style and content. The theme is clear. As long as we are average or slightly above average in IQ (110 or above), what differentiates between success and failure is lots of hard work and practices, and being there at the right time and right place. By definition, nearly half of all of us possess the intellect to excel. Whether we eventually are successful depend partially on luck, but also much on our motivation and how much we want to succeed. Other than this book, I would recommend interested readers to also read Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else". Enjoy and succeed!