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Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm…

Outliers: The Story of Success (edition 2008)

by Malcolm Gladwell

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9,311304321 (3.95)1 / 211
Title:Outliers: The Story of Success
Authors:Malcolm Gladwell
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 309 pages
Collections:Your library

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Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

  1. 70
    Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (dste)
    dste: Another interesting book that looks at some ideas we think are right and turns them upside down.
  2. 40
    The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Anonymous user)
  3. 30
    The Drunkard's Walk : How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow (infiniteletters)
  4. 10
    Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation by Frans Johansson (edwinbcn)
  5. 10
    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (peter_vandenbrande)
    peter_vandenbrande: Beide auteurs benadrukken dat je talent moet ontwikkelen om succesvol te worden. Ze ondergraven allebei de mythe dat alleen geniale mensen de top kunnen bereiken. Carol Dweck werkt het hoe en waarom van deze "growth mindset" uit, Malcolm Gladwell nuanceert tegelijk de invloed van deze individuele inspanningen door "toeval" in het verhaal te brengen: hoe omstandigheden en toevallige kansen van invloed zijn op uiteindelijk succes.… (more)
  6. 10
    Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton (peter_vandenbrande)
  7. 10
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. by Daniel Coyle (infiniteletters)
  8. 00
    Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (infiniteletters)
  9. 00
    Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed (ANeumann)
  10. 03
    Young Nietzsche by Carl Pletsch (galacticus)
    galacticus: Both books deal with genius. Gladwell touches on genius as a study in success, what it takes generally; Pletsch as a study of one mans desire to be a genius.
  11. 04
    De HR-ballon tien populaire praktijken doorprikt by Patrick Vermeren (peter_vandenbrande)

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Showing 1-5 of 297 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book, but when I looked and saw other books that I gave four stars, this one was not quite there. I found it very interesting though, and it made me think about how much fate has to do with an individual's success or failure. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
This book looks at outlying factors of success - things such as their family, birthplace, birthdate, etc. According to the author these people whose achievements are extraordinary follow an unexpected logic.

Someone who is setting up an environment for a person who they want to succeed could potentially use this? I think the authors intent with this book was more as just a "so you know" book rather than a resource with applicable information.
  OHIOCLDC | Jun 29, 2015 |
34. Outliers : The Story of Success (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (2008, 7:17, ~200 pages in paperback, listened May 31- Jun 6)
Rating: 4 stars

My second Gladwell, also on Audio. This was just as fun as David and Goliath, but a far better book. Here there is a clear theme and some good stuff of think about. Among other things, he covers the 10,000 hours to mastery, why Chinese are good at math, and American Jews were successful in the 1970's, why you should never call someone from the south an asshole, and why someone born in December in Canada or certain places in Europe will never be a professional hockey player regardless of their innate size and skills. I took pause on how much our social skills are critical to our success...and of how our social skills come from our childhood and our parents.

His main point is that there are no outliers, as in people who are particularly special in some way. We are, all of us, even the most successful in any type of thing, a product of our cultural surroundings. ( )
  dchaikin | Jun 27, 2015 |
Outliers. What does it mean to be an outlier?

Think about successful people and how they got to where they are. It was through sheer determination and a little bit of luck, right? If that were the case, then just about anybody can be just as successful as Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey or whoever else. But think about yourself. How did you get to where you are now?

My birthday is in December, and therefore I was still 4 when the school year came around for me to enter Kindergarten. Being too young, I had to wait until I turned 5 in order to enroll into school. I actually remember being taken to the school and my mom asking me if I wanted to attend school. Not even understanding what this monstrosity of an institution it was, (and wanting my freedom to do whatever I wanted as well), I decided to not go to school that December (or was it January?). Thus, I waited until the follow September to enter the never-ending gauntlet of education.

What's the point of this? I'll tell you what...it's probably the most important decision I've made in my life. It pretty much shaped my future friends, professions, GPA, and who knows what else. Had I decided to go to school when offered, I can tell you that most of my friends would be totally different than who they are today. Had I decided to go to school when offered, I would have been one of the younger kids in my class...would my grades have been any different? I would have graduated college a year earlier, a time when the economy was not yet at its lowest. Would I have made the same decision to travel abroad? Or would I have searched for something elsewhere?

The point of this introspection is not to throw a philosophical book at you. Oh no. Rather, the reasoning behind this is to point out that the successes and failures we go through in life are only in part due to our own willpower. The other reason is just destiny. Astrology really does help out a little here...being a Sagittarius basically affected my whole life!

[a: Malcolm Gladwell|1439|Malcolm Gladwell|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1224601838p2/1439.jpg]'s [b:Outliers|3228917|Outliers|Malcolm Gladwell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255608670s/3228917.jpg|3364437] is a descriptive, novel-like explanation of what makes people, events, cultures, and catastrophes happen. They aren't simply Black Swans* (a random event that happens), but products of the time period in which they were created and victims of everything else that happens in the world. Bill Gates was lucky not only because he was a genius that started Microsoft. He was born in a very narrow time period where he was able to log in thousands of hours of programming time as a teen and young adult because his school just happened to have a place for him to do that when computers weren't common at all and super expensive. And look at the other wealthy people like him...they were all born in the same time frame. Coincidence? I think not.

But let's not forget sheer will. Of course that's another factor in Outliers. The magic number: 10,000 hours! If you love something, you'll spend more time doing it. If you spend more time doing it, you'll become better. If you spend 10,000 or more hours, you'll be a pro. Don't believe me? Take up a hobby and spend 10,000 hours perfecting your craft in, oh, say 10 years? Then tell me how much better you've become. Whether it's being a musician or a math whiz or a confidence man, you gotta practice. That's another key point.

Gladwell also touches on ideas such as cultural legacies, and I learned quite a lot about what it takes to fly a plane from that chapter! Why were there so many plane crashes in the 90s by South Korean airlines? It can't have anything to do with the pilots being South Korean, does it? Read to find out.

"It is impossible for...any outlier to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, 'I did this, all by myself.' Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneus appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. 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 outlieer, in the end, is not an outlier at all."

*Black Swan, not to be confused with the movie, is a book I read a few months ago, which I didn't like all too well. To make a long book short, it was about how the unpredictable happens, and we can't predict it. Like me buying the book and thinking I would like it because of the premise. If you care to read my review, be my guest. ( )
  jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
I suppose I'm on a mission to finish all of Gladwell's books. Outliers: The Story of Success is better than David and Goliath, which I recently reviewed.

As always, Gladwell presents results of several studies by psychologists and their application to real life, told through various anecdotes. It's up to the reader to research the data and studies, which are often not without controversy. Statisticians often quarrel with Gladwell, but Gladwell's talent is making these studies accessible to the masses and confronting our paradigms with them.

Studies find success-- as judged by people becoming elite professional athletes, CEOs, etc. is a function of a few things, which I'd broadly divide into luck and hard work (no surprise, right?):

Birth month.
If the school age/grade cutoff for your district is August 1 and your child is born August 2, he's more likely to be in an advanced/gifted program than someone born in July.That is because he will be older when starting school, have more skills, and will be seen to be more advanced. "Advanced" kids then have more invested in them-- gifted programs devote additional resources to these students relative to others, and the advantage compounds. As a result, these kids will end up with more hours of study/practice/training relative to their peers born later in the cutoff year, which is the key indicator of success.

Birth year/era.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and several other Silicon Valley CEOs were born within six months of each other in 1955. They were the perfect age for when the first truly revolutionary home PC, the Altair 8800 was invented. A year or two change in their birth year and they'd have missed it. Those computer engineers who graduated before this event likely ended up working in the old mainframe mindset and missed out on the new home PC revolution.
Gladwell points to similar birth year effects for the Robber Barons of industry, some of the richest people in world history, in the late 1800s early 1900s, who were all born in the late 1830s and arrived on the scene just the right time to capture the Industrial Revolution. Those born in 1915 had a better chance of success given The Depression and WWII relative to those born in 1910.

Bill Gates and Mike Joy may have come from high-IQ backgrounds but they also got lucky. Bill Gates happened to go to probably the only high school in the world that had set up a timeshare computer for more modern (non-punchcard) programming, extremely rare for 1967. He was the only 13 year old in the world who had access to such a modern method of programming. He also lived within walking distance of a university where he could get free time programming (at 3am). As a result, he (and Paul Allen) had already put in 10,000 hours of programming before graduating high school.

Mike Joy also happened to enroll at Michigan the same year it started a computing center, which he stumbled into. As a result, he found something that had never piqued his interest before. He was able to get his 10,000 hours in pretty quickly.

You're born into a culture. Gladwell begins a discussion on feuds with a look at chronicled feuds in Eastern Kentucky in the 1800s, and a modern University of Michigan study that indicated Southerners are more likely to react emotionally/violently to certain insults than Northerners even today. While today's Southerners and Appalachians may not be directly related to the Scotch-Irish culture of their forebears, that "culture of honor" still persists in the South. This culture affects our attitudes toward work and success.

Gladwell looks at culture as it relates to education. For example, why does the U.S. have a long summer vacation, whereas Asians do not? Does it matter? Yes, studies say. But why is the summer break the sacred cow? It goes back to quasi-scientific studies a century ago that too much school work drives young people insane (or other poor consequence). Despite studies now showing otherwise, and that reading scores drop during summer holidays (particularly the poor), the summer vacation remains a sacred cow.

Gladwell maintains that Asian culture is built on the history of the rice patty, where hard work is the key and it's honored about all else. That is absent from Western thinking, and hence Asian kids do better in academic subjects. Likewise, the Asian language luckily uses shorter words for its numbers, so they take less time to think and say than in Romantic or Germanic-rooted languages. That speeds up mental calculations, giving Asians an advantage.

"Practical intelligence" which I would also call social IQ, or empathy.
Christopher Langan is considered one of the smartest people in the world, but he was unable to excel in college due to what he sees as bad luck, but Gladwell sees it as a result of his poor social skills. He couldn't convince people he was worth the investment. Gladwell chalks this up to family background and gives some anecdotes-- if you're lucky to have socially skilled parents you are more likely to be successful.

This is where I may have some disagreement with Gladwell; anyone familiar with autism knows that family background does not help an autistic child learn social skills, it's something that must be intensively and deliberately taught. While a neurotypical child absorbs mores and norms almost by osmosis, a person on the autism spectrum (as Langan perhaps is?) has great difficulty with this.

Hard Work
10,000 hours.
About the only trait separating the good from the great are the amount of hours put in-- various studies show roughly 10,000 hours are necessary for mastery of a skill. Now, those who are born in the right month are going to get more training (see above). But anyone willing and able to put the hours in see the result. (That's roughly 20 hours a week for 10 years. I think of the 10,000 hour component a lot when studying language-- to me it's about logging the most best hours possible).

Confronting your culture.
Using Korean Airlines and other once-crash-prone airlines as his example, Gladwell maintains that to go from a bad outlier to an excellent one, you have to confront your culture. Airlines now work hard to train pilots to communicate effectively even when cultural norms dictate more tacit submission to authorities. It's not politically correct, but "when we ignore culture, planes crash. For an American student to excel at math like his Asian counterpart, he has to confront the American culture which prefers athletics and class clowns relative to Asian culture. He has to be different.

Gladwell ends the book giving a brief history of his own family tree, and a look at slave-master relationships in Jamaica. His point is that who a person is, and the success they achieve, is a function of who their parents were and what was around them. But isn't that rather obvious? (This is similar to themes covered in David and Goliath, for which the critique is also similar). Gladwell thinks it's somewhat revolutionary. He wants to confront the American notion of the self-made man. (It brought to my mind Pres. Obama's "You didn't build that.")

I give this book 4 stars out of 5. I enjoyed it, would recommend reading it and thinking about all the studies presented. It's one of the better Gladwell books.
( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 297 (next | show all)
“Outliers” has much in common with Gladwell’s earlier work. It is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward. It also, unfortunately, avoids grappling in a few instances with research that casts doubt on those theories. This is a particular shame, because it would be a delight to watch someone of his intellect and clarity make sense of seemingly conflicting claims.
The world for Gladwell is a text that he reads as closely as he can in seeking to decode and interpret it. He is adept at identifying underlying trends from which he extrapolates to form hypotheses, presenting them as if they were general laws of social behaviour. But his work has little philosophical rigour. He's not an epistemologist; his interest is in what we think, rather than in the how and why of knowledge itself.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Jason Cowley (Nov 23, 2008)
The book, which purports to explain the real reason some people — like Bill Gates and the Beatles — are successful, is peppy, brightly written and provocative in a buzzy sort of way. It is also glib, poorly reasoned and thoroughly unconvincing.
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Pretty good book to discuss some interesting phenomena in real life, and tries to find a reasonable explanation for them. It is good to read a book life this to discuss the success, by uncovering not so well-known facts like for Bill Gates, and some other people in computer science, which I have been learning by self-study for a long time.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316017922, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: 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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:07 -0400)

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The best-selling author of Blink identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers, in a resource that covers such topics as the secrets of software billionaires, why certain cultures are associated with better academic performance, and why the Beatles earned their fame.… (more)

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