Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell

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Could how successful we become depend on our birthdates? Citing the statistics of successful hockey players born in January, Malcolm Gladwell claims it can. No, this book isn’t based on astrology, but on case studies in sociology, psychology and economics. The author of The Tipping Point asserts that the “self-made man” isn’t as self-made as he (most examples in the book are men) seems, and that advantages such as opportunity, skin color and luck have served as the root of success for people like Mozart, Bill Gates and even the author himself. Gladwell proposes some eye-opening assertions regarding cultural stereotypes, such as the financial success of Jewish immigrants and why Asians are good at math. Using the sad story of an unsuccessful genius named Chris Langan as an example, he also shows why a high IQ isn’t a reliable predictor of success. Referring to the “10,000-Hour Rule,” Gladwell suggests that the key to greatness isn’t inherent skill, but 10,000 hours of practice—and those who succeed are the ones whose familial and social advantages have allowed them extraordinary time and opportunity to hone their talents. The methods behind the supporting case studies aren’t mentioned, and the thesis itself is rather disheartening; but the author gives his usual interesting take on why things happen the way they do.