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Outliers: The Story of Success [Hardcover]

Malcolm Gladwell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 18 2008
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.

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Outliers: The Story of Success + The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference + David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
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Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari Malcolm

Quill & Quire

Outliers seems, initially, to be an inadvisable pairing of author and subject. Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer for that august cultural magazine, The New Yorker, and author of two exemplary pop-science bestsellers, The Tipping Point and Blink, goes and writes a book on success – thus entering a subgenre whose foul-smelling precincts are overrun with charlatans, profiteers, and New Age fakirs. But, happily for him and us, he’s skirted ignominy by having written not some exhortative how-to guide, but a sober and far-ranging investigation of human achievement that rebuts some received wisdom on the subject. Gladwell begins by arguing that those “self-made” individuals we romanticize, who come from nothing and rise to the pinnacle of their chosen vocations on merit alone, simply don’t exist. Instead, he insists, high achievers “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies” that ultimately determine their status. Moreover, these same people who capitalize on their early good luck work much harder than their rivals; mastery in any calling, apparently, only arrives after 10,000 hours of training and study (a rather less appealing prospect than the wish-yourself-wealthy-and-fabulous strategy promulgated by The Secret). While it’s hardly a revelation that toil and connections and serendipity beget professional reward, Gladwell provides a surfeit of curious, even alarming, examples to prop up his thesis. In the course of his discussion, we learn that 40% of elite hockey players are born between January and March; that off-the-chart geniuses, collectively, accomplish no more in life than their randomly sampled peers; that contentious and irreverent flight crews are less likely to crash planes than deferential ones; that Asian students’ excellence in mathematics owes much to rice-based agriculture. Gladwell’s writing is clear and colloquial throughout, and his chapters are deftly structured, each one introducing new material while simultaneously reiterating and amplifying what came before. But after plowing through the dramatic anecdotes and gee-whiz factoids, adult readers are left to contend with the desolating assertion that the quality of their lives was determined decades ago by ancestral migration patterns or a summertime birthday or skipped piano lessons. In the end, I was yearning for some consoling piffle about, say, dream analysis or Mayan numerology, to convince me, however briefly, that the world could still be mine for the taking.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
By Curio
Format:Hardcover
In short, Mr. Gladwell's writing--his earnestness, optimism, and persuasiveness--never ceases to impress me.

He broke down trends like no one else in The Tipping Point, and was single-handedly the most convincing voice for trusting your gut reactions (in an age of numbers, facts, and analysis no less) in Blink; this guy knows how to research, and better yet, put the nuggets of wisdom he's found in psychology and science into terrifically engaging and palatable text.

And the most amazing thing is, I don't think he's doing anything new--it's the way he presents it. Where most people could do similar research into his topics and write up their own findings and support already existing and accepted thought, Malcolm succeeds because he looks at it from outside the box. He's not doing much, but he does it so well--he turns things on their head, or reveals things that sit in plain view to us, because we mostly can't see the forest for the trees.

He puts this to high form again in his latest book, and the premise is as provocative and unconventional as his previous efforts, if not more so: he argues that a person's success has much to do with such things as luck (circumstance, fortuitous or unlikely events), culture, environment growing up, and of course, practice. The last point is not terribly groundbreaking, but the rest flies in the face of what we typically credit a successful individual for. Because let's be frank, in today's era, we all strive very hard for equality and to look past a person's background or upbringing (and don't get me wrong, I support that fully), emphasizing the fact that it doesn't matter who you are or where you came from, we can all achieve great things.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Early advantages plus talent plus lots of practice plus a good social heritage plus a large opportunity help people succeed. That's this book in a nutshell as described in a series of New Yorker style articles. As told, the story is much more entertaining than that, but I want you to get the essence. Mr. Gladwell knows how to pick and spin a story to make it appealing and intriguing, and he has done well on those dimensions here.

The book will inspire people to want to help others accomplish more. Any parent, any teacher, any coach, or anyone interested in improving society will find something stimulating here.

Let me give you a quick overview:

1. Mr. Gladwell draws his inspiration for this book from the studies of Roseto, Pennsylvania by Dr. Stewart Wolf and sociologist John Bruhn that established how social factors can improve or harm health. Mr. Gladwell wants to similarly expand our vision of what affects success beyond the sense that "raw talent" and "privilege" help.

2. Mr. Gladwell uses the birth dates of athletes to establish that annual cutoff dates for teams benefit those born closer to the cutoff date. This principle also affects school children. As a result, the older children in a cohort do better and get more attention. Mr. Gladwell proposes having more anniversary dates so that more youngsters will get early access to help and attention.

3. Mr. Gladwell tells us the background of Bill Joy, one of the great computer programming geniuses of all time. In the story, he points out that mastery of most disciplines requires 10,000 hours of practice. Mr. Joy got that practice at a young age because he had access to time sharing on a mainframe when most programmers didn't.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Laura De Giorgio TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In Outliers, Malcolm explores the information he has gathered on what makes people excel. It goes back to the age-old question from psychology - what makes people the way they are - their genetic or the environment - and the answer is both and much more.

I couldn't help but remember a study mentioned once by Tonny Robbins, in which motivational researchers asked two brothers, one of whom has become a successful business man, and the other man alcoholic - both had a father who was an alcoholic, and both man gave the same answer "What else could I become with a father like that." This too may be simplistic, because we really don't have information about how they were individually treated, or any other events in their lives that influenced them to think and act in ways that shaped their life path.

Malcolm begins with a story about a specific group of early Italian settlers in America, who despite of being overweight and eating unhealthy food, lack of exercise, smoking and other unhealthy habits, had much longer lives and better health than average Americans. Apparently the key element that made their bodies and immune system resilient is that they lived with a sense of belonging to the close-knit community where they deeply cared for each other.

Malcolm then proceeds with the study cases of people involved in music, sports, computers and other areas of human achievement and the conclusion is that while talent is most-certainly helpful, regardless of what talent one may have, nothing beats good old hard work.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent information, easy to read and extensive research to illustrate concept presented.
Published 1 month ago by Rose Wong
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for those who want to know what makes some people successful...
I found it to be a very enlightening read as it was reinforced that success is earned, not given. Circumstances do play a part but not entirely. I recommend this book to everyone.
Published 4 months ago by Steve MacMillan
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and enjoyable to read.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Malcolm Gladwell includes many interesting case studies in this book, which are fascinating to read about. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kirsty
5.0 out of 5 stars must read
such a good book. Malcom Gladwell produces one hit after another, his books are easy to follow and definitely offer a different perspective on things. Totally recommend this!
Published 6 months ago by Stephanie Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome read for motivation
I must admit starting the book with references on sports were not very interesting since I am not a sports fan, however the whole point was to reference how people's circumstances... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Lemar
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
This book is a real eye-opener and gives a different perspective on how we look at things, especially achievement and children's accomplishments. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Brenda Case
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
The book provides a very interesting view with many different examples. Outliers doesn't spend too much time talking about one subject, so it keeps you interested and moves around... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sweetpea
3.0 out of 5 stars A great book, but...
I read this book about three years ago on my first year in university. It was suggested by my senior tutor. She told me that this book will change my idea of success, and it did. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ahmed
3.0 out of 5 stars kinda boring
high expectation for this book, but after reading half the book, i stopped. I felt like things were jumping around and many things are already obvious to me
Published 10 months ago by wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Read
Very good read, this book helped open my eyes and view the world in a different way. I always thought that rich amd successful people were born that way, I never knew that luck had... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Diego Elera
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