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The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Things I learned
  3. Success


Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell explains with the cultural and social forces that give rise to opportunistic individuals. Through a series of investigations, Gladwell insists that successful people are not self-made but; instead, defines them as an outlier as a person, “who doesn’t fit into our normal understanding of achievement.” According to Gladwell, great people consist of collaboration, specialization, place, time, and culture. An outlier’s method for success is not intellect but a blend of opportunity, time, and place. The first case study presented in book starts out by describing the reasons why most Canadian hockey players were born early in the year. The book then moves on to looking into the 10,000-Hour Rule, which states that 10,000 hours of practice will lead to mastery and prosperity in ones field; the Beatles and Bill Gates are given as noteworthy examples. Gladwell then goes on to compares two people of equivalent intelligence, Christopher Langan, a remarkable man with a high IQ and extraordinary learning aptitudes, Langan never obtained a college degree or achieved any professional recognition, and Robert Oppenheimer, a celebrated physicist who became the lead reacher responsible of the atomic bomb designed in the Manhattan Project. He explains how Oppenheimer’s influence and social standing made him a more likable and employable person. Outliers ends with an assessment of components such as national origin and education that make a person an Outlier.

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Things I learned

  1. Opportunity– Being at the right place at the right time. Mostly luck (Samiullah).
  2. Timing – Vital to success in a given field.
  3. Upbringing leads to opportunity – The characteristics of a child’s upbringing prove to be a key factor to determine future success even more than IQ.
  4. 10,000 hours – It usually takes 10,000 hours to master and excel at a task. People with opportunity have the chance to do the 10,000 hours to become a master in their field. By watching the Ted Talk: The first 20 hours — how to learn anything by Josh Kaufman, I realized that their is a misconception on the 10,000 Hours Rule by saying the originator of the rule Dr. K. Anders Ericsson conducted the research and found that it takes 10,000 hours “to get to the top of an ultra competitive field in a very narrow subject”. According to Kaufman, once Outliers was released the 10,000 Hour rule was everywhere and the definition of the rule drastically changed. Originally it was it takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of an ultra competitive field, it became it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, which became, it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something, then soon, it became, it became 10,000 hours to learn something(Kaufman). Which is completely false as we learn new things everyday and Kaufmann proves, “with just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, you can go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well.” The book Outliers has had a very powerful impact culture and society.
  5. Meaningful work – If you feel there is genuine purpose to your work, it is more likely that you will work hard and find the task more enjoyable.
  6. Legacy – Our family values influence our behavior. Values are often passed down from generation to generation.


Success is the book’s primary theme. Much of Gladwell’s analysis involves examining intelligent, passionate, or at least aspiring individuals with great potential, often with a goal of determining the ingredients that make these individuals successful. However, Gladwell is also clearly describes what does not result in success. He states measures of intelligence such as IQ cannot be firmly linked to outstanding success, whereas hard work, opportunities, and support evidently help an individual to succeed (Samiullah).


Gladwell argues throughout Outliers that IQ, ingenuity, and place of origin may not be as important in determining success as compared to practice (Samiullah). Opportunity can take many manifestations, from access to a large number of practice hours (10,000) to the advantages provided by a high income family as proved by the example of Oppenheimer(Kaufman). Essentially, though, opportunity can be created even for those who have clear disadvantages.

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In the book Gladwell explores the popular “10,000-hours rule,” which states that “10,000 hours spent practicing and refining a skill will lead to mastery of that skill.” Using many examples, Gladwell shows how extremely successful people needed access to constant practice in order to refine their abilities, irrespective of their discipline. These individuals had the opportunity and time to polish their abilities. Some of the other individuals discussed like corporate lawyers or hockey players required equivalently diligent practice in order to accomplish true expertise.

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