Outliers - the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell


Malcolm Gladwell


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Challenging the stereotypical rags to riches story of success.


Malcolm Gladwell challenges the stereotypical rags to riches story of success. He makes his case using examples varying from successful sportsmen and technology leaders. 

The book aims to demonstrate how the nuances of other variables such as generation, culture, family etc matter. Passion and hard work are essential to success, but they don’t reveal everything.



  • Gladwell argues that success is hardly found in the belief of rags to riches.
  • When talent is identified, the door to opportunity is opened up to that person. Not to anyone else without talent.
  • This allows the talented person access to resources like time and equipment to expand their skills.
  •  This amplifies the difference between those with opportunity and those without.


2 – 10,000 hours:

  • Gladwell points out an intriguing observation citing a study. This spans several different fields from computing, business, sport and music. 
  • There appears to be a magical number of 10,000. This was the number of hours of work or practice that was put in by very successful people in their distinctive field.
  • It can be said that it’s how much an individual practices and not how much innate talent they possess.


3 – Timing:

  • Another variable that Gladwell presents is timing. Where, and which year you were born can also influence your opportunity. 
  • For instance, the list of the richest people in history reveals that 14/75 are American’s born in the 1860s and 1870s. 
  • During this time, the industrial revolution was taking flight, and the railways were being built across America and Wall Street commenced. 
  • A similar thing happened in Silicon Valley. All successful IT entrepreneurs were born between 1953 and 1956.
  • On the contrary, people born in the 1890s and early 1900s were not as fortunate as those born after 1913.
  •  These people were met with the great flu epidemic, WW1, the great depression, and some would've been eligible to be recruited into WW2.


4 – Upbringing leads to opportunity:

  • A long term ethnographic study was conducted by sociologist, Annette Lareau who studied 3rd graders. 
  • It was concluded that involved parents vs. non-involved parents was the key determining factor that pointed to an individual’s success in life.
  •  Involved parents communicate with their children more and provide more opportunities for them (taking them to learning institutions, putting them into extra-curricular, helping with homework etc). 


5 – Meaningful work:

  • In a study, sociologist Louise Farkas analysed the family tree of several immigrants and discovered that their children became professionals. 
  • She concluded it was because of their simple and humble beginnings. They had been raised in a household where hard work was valued and practiced strongly.


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