OUTLIERS

The Story Of Success

Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is an investigatory look into the role that cultural and societal forces play in shaping the lives of highly-successful individuals.

  • Outlier: A person who doesn’t fit into our understanding of achievement, these individuals are thought of as being the brightest and or the best.
  • The Matthew effect: A sociological phenomenon in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (a.k.a. cumulative advantage).

The book’s central thesis is pretty straightforward: Talent and dedicated practice are necessary but insufficient, arbitrary early advantages (or lack thereof) have the greatest impact on our individual levels of professional success, in other words: Luck is the key to success.

Through a series of case studies, Gladwell insists that we have all too easily bought into the myth that successful people are self-made; instead, he says they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. According to Gladwell, great men and women are beneficiaries of specialization, collaboration, time, place, and culture. An outlier’s recipe for success is not personal mythos but the synthesis of opportunity and time on task.

Successful people are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. [From Outliers]

Although Outliers is a very interesting and well written book I believe its central thesis has been a bit overstated, while it’s certainly true that arbitrary early advantages (i.e. luck) contribute to one’s success, I differ from Gladwell in my belief that the choices we make (as autonomous individuals) are the key to our relative level of success or failure.

I intuitively prefer Peter Thiel’s I am not a lottery ticket mantra to Gladwell’s Luck is the key to success.


  • Author: Malcolm Gladwell
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Length: 304
  • Media: Book
  • Published: 2008
  • Buy: eBook
  • Listen: aBook
  • Read: Sample
  • Watch: Video