Outliers: The Story of Success. Study the outperformers.


By Malcolm Gladwell


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When a journalist looks for facts and connections between people who are a huge success, the outcome is always interesting. Malcolm Gladwell wrote his third book ‘Outliers: The story of success’ after extensive research and many interviews. If one thinks about it, is it possible to find a pattern in all the success stories of the world? Is it lies that take you ahead on your journey or is it just destiny and hard work? This book is honest, audacious and direct.

The book starts with discussing why all Canadian Ice hockey players are born in the first half of the calendar and he goes on to evaluate the opportunities that came to Bill Gates and other celebrities. This book was debuted at number one in New York time’s bestsellers list. The author talks about the “10-000 hour rule”, where he claims that to be successful and excellent at any skill, you need a practice of 10-000 hours. It was very well received by critics. It contains an easy language and thus is a light read and informative book. The book is divided in two parts: Opportunity and Legacy. The book is autobiographical in nature. Gladwell, through this book makes a point in front of the readers that no one in this world can succeed alone. Everyone needs factors and support of people going in their direction although it might not be evident at times. This book is a good read if you are looking for some answers to the question of success.


1) There seems to be a pattern with Gladwell’s writing and a brilliant one too for sales or becoming the next ‘bestseller’ – Find an idea that already exists, coin an intriguing title, write and explain the idea with case studies. Though, the case studies seem well written, when it comes to proving the point, the author has cherry-picked stories that perfectly fit the situation.

This is the second book from Malcolm Gladwell that I’ve read after . After reading Outliers, I am not entirely sure if the three hours of my time were well spent because while I was reading, parts of it seemed very entertaining while in the back of my mind, I was wondering how true can these case studies be. Then I started my research on topics that were covered through the case studies. After spending more time on my research, I can easily say there are ‘issues’ to say the least. In fact I can point out and criticize the lack of research done with each case study, but I will just take one for now.

‘ The author talks about how 10,000 hours of practice in any field makes a person world class expert in that field by using Bill Gates and The Beatles personal stories implying success. The author writes in a way to prove this 10,000 hour rule proves with every successful individual on the planet. But on the contrary, academic journal published in July 2014 by Princeton University suggests otherwise saying becoming an expert takes more than practice – ‘ We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.’ Google ‘10,000 hours rule Princeton’ for the article.

The biggest let down is the story lies upon one’s luck, apparently being born at the right time and the right place happens to be a major criteria for success according to the author.
The conclusion is with the history of Gladwell’s own Jamaican family and how its circumstances shaped him. How is that even relevant? Are we to consider Gladwell to be an outlier too?

It is absolutely discouraging for the less-privileged or the unlucky ones looking for inspiration through this book as Gladwell’s core belief system defines luck (born at the right time, in the right place, with the right ethnic background, and the right social class) to the primary cause for success. Insightful to a small extent but it’s illogical and very tedious nonsense.

Are there no un-lucky, less privileged people out there who happened to become world wide success stories? Answer that question yourself, but remember – where there is a will, there is a way.

2) So have you wondered what is it that determines success in life – is it talent/perseverance/skill or is it luck/fate/destiny. This book looks at many events from generic events identifying how words that demean personal honor are bound to stoke more extreme feelings in people from southern part of USA (it is because of the origin of people who settled in that part of America) to individual events like the success of Bill Gates and how his growing up near a school which offered computer classes when even universities in USA did not and the fact that his mother was on committee that was responsible for inducting computer courses contributed to his success.

One realizes that while individual talent does have a role in success but it is not the only determinant and the environment which consists of everything from the family that you are born into, the time you are born (if you were born in 1910s then by the time you were of working age, US was in depression which had an influence on your career), the university/college that you go to can all contribute to your success.

Like Pandit Nehru said, “Life is like a game of cards. The hand that you are dealt with is determinism and how you play that hand is free will”…

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