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Showing 1-10 of 3,257 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 4,809 reviews
on September 10, 2017
I am always impressed by the thoroughness of Malcolm Gladwell's research and ability to convey that into enjoyable, and insightful reading. This book attempts to convey the story behind the genius that often highlights successful people by breaking the reasons for their success down.
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on March 28, 2017
I had purchased this book some time ago and, having put it aside for some long forgotten reason, picked it up again thanks to a friends passing comment about it. Thank God for that, because I now agree with my friend's observation that Gladwell is "the best story teller of them all".
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on June 9, 2014
Outliers made it to the #1 spot as a national bestseller, and it's well deserved. It is interesting, clearly written, and the argument is logically presented and, for the most part, well supported. The book's central ideas are 1) that brain power, character, and motivation are overrated; 2) other factors—often not easily recognized or not given enough significance—such as where and when a person was born, his or her family history, and the particular twists of fate and coincidences in a life story, are integral to the success (or failure) of an individual.

While his second premise makes sense to most of us, it is frequently downplayed in favor of intelligence, desire, ambition, and other character traits when analyzing the achievements of the famous and highly successful. No one, no matter how smart and driven, can do it alone, says Gladwell. And he insists that enough favorable factors must come together to clear the path and propel the individual to become a winner. For example, Bill Gates was born at the right time (computers coming into their own), to wealthy parents, and through various fortuitous events ended up in a situation that gave him unprecedented access to computers in the late 1960's when he was only an eighth grader. Various individuals acted as facilitators to make it possible for him to continue his programming work through high school and into college. In Gates words, "I was very lucky."

Gladwell recognizes that Gates was brilliant and driven, and those faculties no doubt played in his favor, but the author maintains that the right circumstances—the precise state of technology when he was just the right age, the financial means, the mentors and coincidences—had to be there. He supports the argument by using contrast, including examples of extremely intelligent individuals, geniuses in fact, who were also highly motivated, but whose life circumstances did not favor them, and thus failed to achieve their enormous potential. In fact, he shows that high intelligence is an advantageous factor in achieving success only to a point beyond which it does not matter how many more IQ points you register.

Curiously, Gladwell misses an opportunity to advance more of his basic premises when analyzing the success of the Beatles, instead narrowing his focus on the break the band got by accepting a gig in Hamburg, Germany, which forced them to play a variety of music genres many hours daily, seven days a week before they took America by storm. His emphasis here is the number of hours the Beatles played during that time, which made them much better musicians, but he does not highlight that the turbulent 1960's were ripe for radical change in various areas of society, music being one. One of the author's main points in other parts of the book is that the period in which a person happens to be alive has an enormous influence on his or her personal life outcome, and the Beatles are a perfect example of that. And yet, Gladwell does not seize the opportunity to emphasize this. Quite odd, really.

The influence of culture in determining success or failure in specific fields is interestingly illustrated in Gladwell's analysis of airplane crashes. Until recently, Korean Air had a relatively high number of accidents, and it was discovered that this was largely due to their culture, which frowns upon the questioning of authority. It was found that Korean co-pilots and flight engineers were extremely hesitant to question the Captain's actions and decisions, much less clearly convey their concerns, when they detected potential problems.

A similar situation resulted in an Avianca (a Colombian airline) crash in New York in January 1990. In that incident, the factors of bad weather, a very tired flight captain, and a malfunctioning auto-pilot were exacerbated by their being on a holding pattern over the city while running out of fuel and the first officer's reluctance to convey the gravity of the situation forcefully enough to the very busy and commanding New York air traffic controllers. He did not want to anger the "authorities," so the exchanges via radio maintained a business-as-usual tone until the plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed.

Gladwell offers many other fascinating and surprising facts in Outliers, such as the odd relationship between successful hockey players and their birth month, why the 1930's was the perfect time for New York Jewish lawyers to be born, why the 1950's residents of Roseto, Pennsylvania seemed immune to heart disease even though their diet was loaded with fat, few were committed to exercise, and many smoked heavily and struggled with obesity.

If you find these extraordinary social phenomena interesting, you will like this book.
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on June 28, 2016
If you've ever heard people say, "You gotta put in 10,000 hours into something before you're an expert." Chances are they read Outliers. Outliers is about the combination of effort and sheer luck needed to pull out extraordinary success like Bill Gates or The Beatles. The stories and the social science behind them is fascinating and Gladwell's prose makes it an easy, liquid-like read. For people who like to think and want to know how things work, this book is for you.
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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 November 17, 2016
I usually love all the books I read since I am very selective. However this was a let down for a number of reasons:
1. While it started off strongly, it rapidly fell off in all aspects about a third in. The writing was less to the point, the points were less groundbreaking, and seemed to be supported by rather anecdotal observations. It had a comeback here and there, but the majority of the book as weak imo.
2. Overdone storytelling. About 1/5th of the book is spent on a chapter on plane crashes. He makes a very smart and interesting point, but that point was made after about 30 minutes, yet he kept going bringing example after example in excruciating detail. This is closely related to point 1 as it appears that as substance decreased, the exposition of description increased.
3. His stance is too extreme. If the tale of the self made man is one extreme, then outliers is the other extreme as it basically attempts to discredit the successful and say it was all due to luck. He keeps mentioning Bill Gates and how "lucky" he was to have a computer in his school. He also mentions that there were only a handful of school at the time to have such a computer. Well a handful of schools say 12? With say 1000 students on average each? That means 12,000 others had the same chance as him. 12,000 that did not program all night long, to learn this new skill, but rather chose to play ball or worry about boys/girls. While we can discredit everyone by the logic of "if X did not happen, he would not have accomplished Y", the truth is this Malcolm: We are around so much opportunity, more so now than ever, that it's less a question of whether there is opportunity, nut whether we take advantage of it. You are correct that now I'd have a harder time creating my own operating system, that ship has sailed, I agree, but that is looking at success with a very narrow lense. There is always an opportune industry for one to break into, and all it takes is seizing those opportunities. As with your mother, you mention in the Epilogue, if it were not for someone having given her money to go to school, things would have been very different. Don't you think that is selling her short? I'm sure she would have kept asking until she found someone else to give her money.
The true story of success is that successful people will not let their story be changed by adding or removing a variable from their path, they will keep fighting and find something to replace that variable. That's why some of the most successful people have been declined or faced defeat (be it investors, agents, etc.) over a hundred times and kept going. If you'd go back and take away their investor, its safe to say they would have kept going to another 100 and eventually found someone else. And that attitude, as you may claim, is not a stone cold result of legacy, as both those born of a privileged background as well as those with the most painful of pasts have those attitudes... because an attitude is decided in the moment, not something we are born with or given.

In conclusion, it is an interesting read if you want to learn more about people, but take it with a grain of salt. This is NOT personal development, or anything of the sort in case you think this is a book I read and learn to be successful... quite contrary the message appears to comfort those that don't have success and blame society, and poke those with success implying that whatever they have was not earned.
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on September 2, 2014
My favorite quote: "Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky -- but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all."

This was my first Malcolm Gladwell book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gladwell started out with a bang, analyzing the advantages of birth dates in professional hockey, soccer, and even education, which surprised me. From there, he wound through the histories of well known figures like Bill Gates and the Beatles as well as lesser known individuals like Joe Flom and Robert Oppenheimer. Gladwell considered birthdate, upbringing, opportunities, culture inheritances, and more to pinpoint what causes success. I loved the ending and overall message, that outliers aren't really outliers.

The writing was fantastic and the facts were presented mostly in a fluid, easy to understand, way. Toward the end I had a hard time tying the stories together, and I questioned one of his claims based on the accompanying table. But overall, this was a thought provoking read that I highly recommend.
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on November 1, 2015
Probably Gladwell's most entertaining book. We all love a good success story. A story about cases where people go from nothing to overwhelming and legendary status. This book takes apart those stories and explodes the myths and lies we attach to them. It also provides a more realistic context for understanding those stories. So with the book you get great biographical stories about the Beatles and Silicon Valley moguls and the like. But you also learn things about those stories that put their lives into a context you can understand. You realize the luck they had to get where they are. The conditions that were out of their control that they luckily fell into. You also learn of the extraordinary amount of work they also had to put in. A great read. Gladwell's best book if you ask me.
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on July 24, 2017
What a wonderfully written book about how opportunity is the key factor to success. It really makes you think about your own life and the events that occurred during the earlier years that might have shaped you into what you are today. I don't often read books but this one was recommended to me by a few people and found that I had a hard time putting this book down. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested on how success is achieved - it will blow you away.
Note to the publisher: I did find a few grammatical and misspellings within this text :-)
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on December 11, 2012
I've often assumed that super successful people succeeded because they were exceptionally talented or were very intelligent. After reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, I realized what a huge mistake it is to make this assumption. It has the tendency to make me want to give up or not try as hard in my endeavors, because, what's the use if I wasn't born with the necessary gifts?

After reading Outliers it appears that talent is the least of the three elements needed for the upper echelons of achievement. Proper preparation is also required, but these two factors are not enough without the most crucial element: opportunity, the one thing that's almost completely out of our control.

As for talent and intelligence, consider this: In 1921, the creator of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, Lewis Terman, sorted through the records of 250,000 elementary and high school students and selected 1,470 children whose IQ scores were between 140 and 200 (100 is average, Einstein's was 150). He tracked their progress for the rest of his life and found that the majority ended up with ordinary careers. He was compelled to conclude that there is no connection between intellect and achievement.

In addition to intelligence and talent, one must have the proper amount of preparation. Before the Beatles became world-famous rock legends, they were given the chance to play in Hamburg, Germany between 1960 and 1962. They played at a club that required them to perform eight hours a night, seven days a week. The band performed live an estimated twelve hundred times before they took the world by storm in 1964. Most bands don't perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers. Several studies have concluded that 10,000 hours is the magic number for proper preparation.

"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...In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again...It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

But the most important aspect of success for these outliers is opportunity. John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and eleven more Americans born in the 1830s are on the list of the top seventy-five richest people of all time, a list that includes Cleopatra, the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, and Bill Gates. Twenty percent of the people on this list were born in the same country and in the same decade.

And speaking of Bill Gates, he, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, and many of the tycoons of Silicon Valley were all born between 1953 and 1956, which put them at about twenty-one years old when the first personal computer hit the market in 1975. If these two groups of over-achievers had been born a decade earlier or a decade later, they would have never been in the right place at the right time. They would have missed the revolutions that were taking place.

According to Gladwell, success follows a predictable course. It's not the smartest or most talented who succeed, and it's not simply the most prepared. It's people who were given opportunities right at the time that they were most prepared to capitalize on them. In order to really succeed, you only have to be talented or smart enough, you have to be well prepared, and most crucially, you have to be given the opportunity.

Written by David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"
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