Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers": Exploring The Definition of Success

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1038 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1038|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Success is something many people strive for while becoming the person they want to be. Success is not just an equation that can be put into a calculator. To get to what an individual calls “success” there are many complex paths to get to the destination. But what exactly is the definition of success? Malcolm Galdwell, the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, never actually defines his own version of success. After taking time to analyse the book, I came to see what Gladwell’s version of success really is. From what I gathered, Gladwell’s definition is that success is a combination of opportunity and cultural legacy that leads to wealth or power. Gladwell thinks success is anything but simple. Outliers only tell the stories of people and companies who came into money, power, or built an empire. Many of the people used as examples in Outliers, such as The Beatles and Steve Jobs, would be considered great men by most of the world. What about the typical Joe? How does he define success? Not all people want money and power. Some just strive for a family and a place to live. So what is the difference between a great man, such as Steve Jobs, and a good man like all of us? Their legacy is what sets them apart. So the real question I hope to solve in this essay is, is it better to be a good man or a great man?

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Malcolm speaks constantly about the opportunities that many of the men in his book got that led them to change the world. A good example of this is the 10,000 hour rule, which states that one must practice for 10,000 hours to master that specific task. One way to understand the 10,000 hour rule is that success is not necessarily about talent but about hard work. An illustration to support Gladwell’s claim is “... couldn't find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did” (Gladwell 39). The thing that makes great men great is the opportunity to put in those 10,000 hours. Without 10,000 hours of practice we would not have some of today's popular musicians such as The Beatles, and even Billie Eilish. The way great men got the opportunity to put in their hours was normally stumbled upon. It was a matter of coincidence and timing. The practice time is what makes them “great”, but without it many of the people we know as successful would not even be known at all.

Gladwell speaks about how people don’t take opportunities that come their way. Did he ever consider that maybe they are not practicing the things that can be tracked by hours. A good man impacts the people around them. They practice loving and helping others their entire life because they chose to take that opportunity. While someone who is defined as successful may be helping the general world they are not truly felt by the ones around them. A good scenario is Bill Gates. Bill Gates has 3 kids but is also known for being very devoted to his work. His entire world revolves around his work. They may not be the main focus of his life. He loves his kids very much but he is not always there for them because of his busy work schedule. That consequently leads to him overlooking his kids and family much more than a good man would. He never had a choice between greatness or just being good. Great men are loved by many people which forces them to please everyone. Good men have a silent legacy which is why they make more of an impact on the people around them. Good men are focused on what they want to be because they aren't doing what everyone wants them to do. They practice loving the ones around them every chance they can. They do not stumble upon the opportunity. They get to choose if they want to take it or not.

Now we must answer the question about if being a good or a great man is better. A great man is a creator, genius, and a hard worker. At the same time, a good man can show all of these characteristics but never get the opportunities that a great man has gotten. I feel as though good men get an even better gift. What is bestowed upon a good man is something that many people never get. The gift of being so selfless that they are willing to give up the opportunities in front of them for the people they love. A good man sees the value in family and where they come from. Bill Gates may carry on his cultural legacy but, as I said before, great men are inventors and creators. While Gates may not be able to change his legacy, he will add to it. A good man understands where he comes from and embraces his cultural identity. The importance of family is why they are so selfless. Do our dreams of becoming pop stars when we were little still persuade us or does the reward or reciprocating love seem like a better prize?

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Gladwell is defining success as a complicated road to becoming rich and famous. I feel that if one takes the simple path towards being a good man and completes the task, they have become one of the most successful people in the world. A good man is forgotten over a few generations. A great man is glorified and his stories and legends live long into the future. The legacy of a great man is spoken of. The legacy of a good man is felt for even longer than the stories of the great man are told. A great man transforms the world around them, but a good man impacts the lives of people creating a quiet legacy. A great man conquers and a good man cultivates. A great man changes and a good man invests. I hope to be a good man one day like so many before me. I have felt the touch of a good man and I know that it is the meaning of true success. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”: Exploring the Definition of Success. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from
“Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”: Exploring the Definition of Success.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”: Exploring the Definition of Success. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2024].
Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”: Exploring the Definition of Success [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 May 19]. Available from:
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