Customer Reviews: Outliers: The Story of Success
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on July 14, 2009
The main tenet of Outliers is that 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 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.

Gladwell 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 for employees.

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.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is another of my favorites in this genre. I recommend it strongly because, unlike Gladwell's book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 shows you how to become an outlier...
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on December 24, 2008
Spoiler alert! This book contains about a dozen "whoa, amazing" nuggets that could change your life, or at least tell you why you never changed your life, and I'm going to include all of them here just to have them listed somewhere convenient online for my benefit (and yours). But as any Gladwell fan knows, you don't read his writings just for the "holy cow" moments, you read them for the journey he takes you on in delivering those moments. This work provides several amazing journeys, even as they stray progressively farther from what seems to be the advertised purpose of the book: to illustrate how certain people become phenomenal successes. We learn early on the secret to being a great Canadian hockey player, assuming you are already spectacularly talented and work hard. But eventually we wind up learning not how to become a spectacularly successful airline pilot, but rather a spectacularly bad one. No bother, the book is providing entertaining information that can transform your professional life. So as for those dozen points, here goes, and you've already been warned:

1. There was a town in Pennsylvania called Roseto where people lived far longer and suffered far less from heart disease than people of similar genetic stock, eating similar diets, and living in similar nearby towns. The only explanation researchers could find was that Roseto had a uniquely strong sense of community: family and faith were both strong, and the wealthy did not flaunt their success.

2. In the Canadian "all star" junior hockey league - the surest ticket to the NHL - the majority of the players on the winning team were born in January, February, or March. The league was for players between 17 and 20 years old. Why the month anomaly? Because in Canada, elite hockey teams have try-outs at the age of 10, and the age cut-off is January 1. In essence, the oldest 10 year olds are far better at hockey than the youngest 10 year olds, so the youngest (those born in December) have no chance to make the select teams, which are the only ones with excellent coaching. The pattern continues all the way through high school. Similar birthday patterns are seen in places such as the Czech junior national soccer team. Makes you wonder about what "good for your age" means in academics too.

3. Many researchers believe in the "10,000 hour rule," namely that you need to spend about 10,000 hours on a skill - anything, including music, computer programming, business dealings in the expanding American West, or mergers and acquisitions - in order to become great at it. This is something Bill Gates and the Beatles have in common, thanks largely due to circumstances beyond their control.

4. At least 15 of the wealthiest 75 people in world history (in modern dollars) were born in the 9 years from 1831 to 1840. They were old enough to have learned how to profit in the rapidly industrializing United States (via 10,000 hours of experience) but not so old as to have already settled down and been inflexible with their life options or concepts of business. Similar birthdate "coincidences" are seen among the wealthiest tech entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, and among some of the most successful lawyers in New York.

5. In long-term studies, IQ is found to predict professional success - but only up to a score of about 120, past which additional points don't help. Nobel prize winners are equally likely to have IQs of 130 or 180. When minority students are admitted through affirmative action, their achievement scores may be lower, but as long as they are above the threshold, it does not affect the likelihood of professional success.

6. Anecdotes from the "world's smartest man," (according to IQ tests) Chris Langan, and the children of middle class families, suggest that "practical intelligence" about when, how, and with what words to speak up are a huge factor in success - specifically when speaking up can save you from losing a scholarship. Longitudinal studies of high-IQ children showed that a family's high socioeconomic background was more important to predicting success than very high IQ.

7. Many people put in their 10,000 hours in something like computer programming, but then never find themselves in the midst of a revolution where people with 10,000 hours of experience are desperately needed. Bill Gates did. The connections he formed as an early highly-sought programmer helped him rise and found Microsoft. Joe Flom, one of the most successful lawyers in New York, became a specialist in mergers and acquisitions before such transactions were considered "acceptable" business by mainstream lawyers. When the culture changed in the 1980s to accept such dealings, Joe Flom was the best of the best who had put in his 10,000 hours in a now-mainstream business. He became an historic success almost overnight.

8. When economically tough times hit, people stop having children for fear of being unable to provide for them. However, this may be the best time to have children, because there are few other children competing for things such as classroom attention, spots on school sports teams, professors' attention, and jobs upon high school or college graduation. There are also more children a decade behind them who will provide the demand for the goods and services the older children will provide.

9. The typical airline crash involves seven consecutive human errors, and crashes are significantly more likely to occur when the more-experienced captain is flying the plane, as opposed to the subordinate first officer. The likely reason is that the first officer is much less likely to speak up when he or she notices something wrong or a human error, and the captain is flying the plane. Flights in countries with a large "power distance index," which characterizes cultures where subordinates are generally afraid of expressing disagreement with superiors, are the most likely to crash. This included Korean air, which had the worst safety record among major airlines until it instituted a program requiring subordinates to speak up when there were problems. There are benefits to deferential, polite, and subtle conversation, but they are unlikely to be beneficial in stressful cockpit environments.

10. There are at least two non-genetic reasons Asian people excel at math (and some tests have suggested that Asians may have genetic _disadvantages_ in math). First, most commonly used Asian languages use a monosyllablic, ordered, regular system to describe numbers, unlike English and European languages. This gives young children up to a year's head start in math. Second, math often requires persistence and trial and error, characteristics also needed for successful rice farming, the dominant form of agriculture (and employment) in Asia even in the 20th century. Hilarious evidence of correlation of persistence with high math scores is found in results on the TIMSS, an international math exam. The beginning of the exam includes a tedious 120-question section that asks students about their parents' education, their friends, and their views on math, among other things. It is exhausting, requiring great _persistence_, and some students leave it partially blank. If you rank countries by how many of the survey questions their students completed, and by the TIMMS score, the lists are "exactly the same." Holy cow! At the tops of both lists were Singapore, South Korea, China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Japan.

11. Students from middle class and poor neighborhoods show an achievement gap in reading that widens over the years of elementary school. However, the financially poorer students progress (in terms of grades on standardized tests) the _same_ amount during the _academic_ year as the wealthier students. It is during the _summer_ break that better-off students with better-educated families continue to read and learn, while the less well-off students likely do not, and show major declines in autumn test scores compared to the previous spring. Students in "KIPP" (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools showed major success despite coming from low income neighborhoods, because of a much longer school day and academic year.

12. The author, Malcolm Gladwell, tells a story in the final chapter about how his family, and thus he, benefitted from light skin tones and changing racial attitudes in Jamaica. It's a stretch compared to the rest of the book, but gets you thinking and is an awkwardly charming read.
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on April 29, 2015
I am very impressed with Outliers. I learned so very much in this book. It was recommended to me because the person who recommended it to me thought that I might qualify as an Outlier. This book will really help me with my purpose in life. I mention this book to a neighbor and she said "is it by Malcolm Gladwell?" And I said "yes" I was very happy that she had also read Outliers. Since we are working together on a project, it makes it so much easier because I know that she understands what I am about and I know what she is about. To me Outliers attracts people who are willing to make changes in the world.
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on January 17, 2016
This was an utterly fascinating book about the secret factors that contribute to individual success. We are told to be smart, savvy and take advantage of opportunities, but factors like what time of year you're born, what decade you're born in, the circumstances of your education, and other factors beyond our control have a great deal to do with how successful we can become. This will amaze you, and if you're thinking about it, you'll get mad at how your circumstances determine who you can become. After a certain point you'll read this book for pointers on how to screw the system that is screwing you. The discouraging thing is that virtually no one makes it who has not worked hard and done their homework, but most people will be stopped hard by factors they can do nothing about. I have read several Malcolm Gladwell books and have been consistently pleased by the numerous examples and behind-the-scenes exposes that he consistently highlights. You have long suspected that society is a rigged game, but the extent to which society is jerking you around must be seen to be believed. An enlightening, maddening book that should be required reading for every high school student.
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on May 31, 2016
My first Malcolm Gladwell book and definitely not my last. The book does a great job analyzing talent and success, and the seemingly minor or unnoticed entites that play a large part in determining the disposition of a person. There are a million reviews on this book but I feel it was well written and very entertaining; I found myself not wanting to stop reading! 'Outliers' will be a book that will not just sit and collect dust. This was a great book and great purchase.
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on August 10, 2016
The 1 book I had to read in college that wasn't a drag.

The book arrived promptly, within 2 days. Which was perfect, because I was 2 days late to ordering it. :P

I really appreciate Malcolm Gladwell. His style of writing is friendly and easy to keep up with for the average reader. Every concept was fairly uncomplicated to understand.

I've read two other Gladwell books - I'd recommend starting with this one.
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on February 28, 2016
This book changed the way I look at things. Gladwell breaks success down into a few components:

Meaningfulness - The thing has to have some meaning for you, some deep meaning. You need this to create or have a desire or need to do the thing - you won't do it if there's no need to do it, or no desire.

Expertise - Which is different from "success." It takes 10,000 hours of consistent, deliberate practice to become "expert" at something. If you have the desire/need, you won't mind putting in the time.

Support - No one does anything alone. Every successful person had support from someone at some critical point in time.

History - Your own genealogical history will have a huge impact on what your do - how you act/react regarding things. Your personal history will have a similarly huge impact - how you view the world is based on your experience of it from an early age.

Culture - The culture you were raised in, and the culture you live/work in, will determine your behavior to a large extent, unless you're really aware of it, and can work with it.

Luck - It takes a lot of luck to be "successful." You have to be in the right places at the right times. You have to have all of the cards stacked up in your favor.

There are some things we just can't get around. Our genes, for instance. Our family history. Our past. Those things are done. The good thing is, they are done. We don't have to think about them, unless they create impediments for us. If they do, we need to deal with them and get over/around those issues.

We can't really get around luck, either...though some people feel like we make our own luck (and I tend to agree). We can do our best to stack the cards in our favor, to create Win/Win situations whenever possible, and walk away from situations that are Lose/Win, or Win/Lose. That will go a long way. Maybe as far as luck itself can at times.

The rest of it is simply finding what's most meaningful to us, and being true to it. It takes a lot of work, a lot of bravery, a lot of soul-searching. But when it's all over, wouldn't you rather be able to say you used your life to become who you really are? That you realized your fullest potential? The alternative seems very sad.
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on April 21, 2016
So just when I was sure Blink was the most thought provoking book I'd read since Walker Percy's Lost In The Cosmos, along comes Malcolm Gladwell with Outliers. The subtitle, "The Story of Success" is a little off-putting because this book is actually MORE than it promises. These aren't just stories of success: the careful reader will find his own pathway to success. Gladwell doesn't promise as much. His publisher probably won't let him. But in my opinion this book is that important. So buy it, and then read it. Carefully.
John Klawitter, DGA Director, author of the EPIC Author Award Winner Best Non-Fiction Book Tinsel Wilderness.
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on May 26, 2016
Thank you Malcolm Gladwell for writing a book essentially on LUCK! This book has changed my world! As a hard worker, there were times when I didn't understand why my hard work didn't produce success, or that it would take so long to see results...but now I understand very clearly that sometimes it's just a matter of waiting for LUCK to show up and being prepared when it does!
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on December 24, 2015
I usually do not read a whole lot of books but I bought this book on Amazon. Although I am not an avid reader enormous reviews and finding it in a lot of " Hudson news " stores during my flight travel, this book caught my eye. I love and absolutely look this book.

If you know Indian mythology it is similar to tell you why " Lord Rama has become Rama and Ravana the main villain in the story has become Ravana".
It is various circumstances, social status, opportunities, repetition, luck -- all combined that makes Rama what he is , a super star.

I totally agree with the writer and lot of times success is always measured in one dimension.

That is not true and it is absolutely affirmatively a multi dimensional measure. For eg:- if I am successful it is a lot of factors- our parents being able to afford college education, being able to buy the books we want I.e. Financial status, etc. enough of show spoiling I'll let you read the book in its entirety. Enjoy reading!!! :))

P.s. I purchased audio book as well and it is definitely a must read...
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