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Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,751404343 (3.95)1 / 269
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)
  1. 90
    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
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. by Daniel Coyle (infiniteletters)
  5. 10
    Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton (peter_vandenbrande)
  6. 10
    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. 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)
  7. 10
    The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation by Frans Johansson (edwinbcn)
  8. 00
    Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (infiniteletters)
  9. 00
    Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed (ANeumann)
  10. 04
    De HR-ballon tien populaire praktijken doorprikt by P. Vermeren (peter_vandenbrande)
  11. 04
    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.

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» See also 269 mentions

English (394)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (403)
Showing 1-5 of 394 (next | show all)
Enjoyable and insightful. Not laden with statics by any means, but informative nonetheless. ( )
  LaPhenix | Jul 8, 2024 |
Our culture celebrates the myth of the “self-made man.......we naturally tend to attribute an individual’s success or achievement to his or her own efforts and innate abilities.
We place such a high value on individuals and their “self-made” achievements that we often willfully ignore other factors.
Once you reach a certain threshold, increased abilities no longer help you succeed.
Qualities that foster success–like height in basketball players or quantitative intelligence in mathematicians–have a “threshold.” For example, after reaching a certain height, an extra couple of inches don’t make that much difference for a basketball player. The same is true in education as well:
Despite their poorer performance both before and during law school, the minority students (given special entry privileges) enjoy similar salaries, earn as many honors, and make as many contributions to the legal world as their white classmates.....Once you’ve reached the skills threshold, marginal increases in innate reasoning abilities won’t advance you. Other things–social skills, connections, or even a lucky break–will.
World-class mastery of anything demands around 10,000 hours of practice–no easy feat.
Bill Gates spent a lot of time learning computer programming. The Beatles spent a lot of time on stage. Though they were also extraordinarily talented individuals, it was extensive practice that made them truly world-class.........studies show you need to spend a “critical minimum” amount of time–around 10,000 hours–practicing. You need the opportunity to start early so you can get in as much practice as possible and secure a head start on the competition.
Also, you or your family has to have the resources to support you.......You might also need access to expensive state-of-the-art equipment. And encouragement from family, friends, coaches, teachers and kind strangers you meet on the street helps too.
However, many people effectively lack the opportunity to achieve world-class mastery in their chosen fields........“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.”
The month you’re born in can have a huge effect on what you achieve. Annual cutoff dates pit kids born in January against those born at the end of December. In other words, December babies compete with kids who are basically a year older than they are......[I’m very aware of this as one born at the end of December and always pitted against kids who were essentially a year older than me.....as all competitions etc was on the basis of “those turning 10 this year”.....so that’s why they were bigger, stronger, faster than I was!!.....I think I like this book]. It also creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: coaches praise the best nine-year-olds because they’re stronger, better players, when in fact they’re neither; they’re just older–a year makes a big difference when it constitutes one eighth of your life. It’s the reason professional Canadian hockey players have birthdays in the first half of the year more often than in the second.....But relative age can create unequal opportunities in any area that uses annual cutoff dates to divide people into age-based groups. Most sports leagues have them. Another place that has them? Schools......Thus, the five-year-old whose short attention span inspires her to take a crayon to her spelling homework can grow up thinking she’s a “problem child.” At the same time, the calm almost-six-year-old she sat next to grows up to go to Harvard.
How you’re brought up can radically impact how successful you become.
Practical intelligence is “procedural” knowledge: knowing how to interpret and work social situations to get what you want–in other words, knowing who to ask what, and when.
The ability to interact with and negotiate with authority figures can help inch people closer to their goals.......Wealthier parents instill in their children a feeling of “entitlement” more often than lower-class parents do......They teach their children to demand respect and to “customize” a situation to suit to their needs. In other words, they teach their kids practical intelligence.
The year you’re born in can make or break you [It’s actually the era or time you were bon and the historical circumstances. Alexander would probably not have been great if his father had not been assassinated and thus unable to lead the invasion of modern Turkey].......Consider several big-name software billionaires: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and co-founder of Sun-Microsystems, Bill Joy. All of them were born with an extraordinary gift for logical reasoning as well as ambition, practical intelligence and opportunities to practice their skills. Mystery of the wildly successful solved?......Not so fast........In order to capitalize on the rapidly changing software industry, they had to be born at just the right time: late enough to have access to a new computer model that made it easier to work out programming bugs, but not so late that others could get to their ideas first. They also had to be just the right age
Where you come from–geographically and culturally–can have a particularly large effect on what you achieve.
When children learn the words for numbers in Asian languages, they automatically learn to add up numbers too, thus developing their mathematical aptitude early on. [Must check with my wife about this....it’s a new claim to me....and I’ve learned to count in two wildly different Asian languages].
Rice farming fosters an intense work ethic. Farming rice is much harder than farming Western crops. A robust, profitable rice harvest demands precision, coordination and patience. [As an ex agronomist, I’ve had reasonably close involvement with farming rice and other crops and think this is just myth making.....all successful farming requires hard work , planning and foresight etc].......Anyway the author says rice farming offered a clear relationship between effort and reward......Research has shown that students in Western countries give up on math problems far sooner than students in Eastern countries do.
People with ancestors who worked in rice paddies tend to inherit an attitude towards work that is particularly helpful when learning math. This tendency persists, even generations after families have left rice paddies behind. [I think this is rubbish. Certainly families from Asian backgrounds tend to work hard, prioritise and are focused on succeeding educationally. But whether this is due to 400 years of a military dictatorship (as in Japan), or to Confucian philosophy (as in China, Singapore) or to rice farming or just the immigrant’s desire to get ahead.....is not obvious].
If we recognize the importance of cultural legacy, we can help more people work towards success–and prevent failure....Airline pilots can run into a series of small problems that add up to disaster. An example is Korean Air,.......Korean culture values authority figures and dictates that one should always defer to an individual with a higher rank. Thus if the captain of a plane makes a mistake, lower-ranking crewmembers might not be comfortable correcting the captain because their cultural legacy says they shouldn’t......One of Korean Air’s crashes in Guam can be traced back to such communication failures. The captain ignored the first officer’s timid comment about rain. ....If we recognize the reasons behind uneven playing fields, we can create more opportunities for people to succeed. Many hockey players who might have harnessed great work ethics or learned to handle the puck better than anyone else in the league are lost because resources go to those who have an unfair advantage by having been born in the right part of the year. Cumulative advantage for some means cumulative disadvantage for others.....Once this flaw in the system is recognized, however, it can be fixed......Instead of sitting back and allowing the children of wealthier parents have access to more opportunities, we can create programs like the South Bronx’s KIPP–Knowledge is Power Program. [Well maybe....but I think it’s practically very difficult to have, say 4 age groups in schools where we currently have one......but maybe we could work more around thinks like “personal bests” and time vs age in months etc.]
The key message in this book: No man, woman or Canadian hockey player is an island. Extraordinary success is the result of an often-unlikely series of opportunities, lucky breaks and occurrences that combine to create the precise conditions that allow such achievement.
I liked the book and it drew out a few things about advantage, that I had personally been aware of but hadn’t seen much published on the issue in the past. Four stars from me. ( )
  booktsunami | Jul 7, 2024 |
Very interesting, and a very quick/easy read ( )
  Louisasbookclub | Jun 30, 2024 |
A good read to explore the idea that outliers have more to do with dedicated work, cultural heritage, and circumstantial opportunities. I like Gladwell's stories in explaining these ideas, but I don't know enough about the research to validate the ideas. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Jan 14, 2024 |
How people become successful. Lots of food for thought, part the system, part lucky timing and part persistence. ( )
  SteveMcI | Jan 5, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 394 (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.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gladwell, Malcolmprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gladwell, MalcolmNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Roseto Valfortore lies one hundred miles southeast of Rome in the Apennine foothills of the Italian province of Foggia.
out•li•er\-,lī(-ə)r\ noun
1: something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.
2: a statistical observation that is marked different in value from the others of the sample.
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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.

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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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