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Book Review: Outliers May 2, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Books, Reviews.
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A good friend had been nagging me to read this book for a while. He said that it is by far the most insightful book he’s read tackling the question of how to become, and stay, successful.

In writing this review, I hope he considers this gratitude enough for all that nagging…

in Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell meticulously deconstructs a plethora of success stories across virtually every boundary imaginable, and attempts to find similarities amongst all of them. Surprisingly, there are common threads that run through every story he researches, right from the Beatles to the 2007 Medicine Hat Tigers to Chris Langan, to the pilots of Korean Airlines to students at the KIPP program in New York City.  

He outlines that stories of success can be broken into 2 parts. The first is Opportunity, and here he states that we owe a great deal of our success to our patronage. Talent and intellect are important ingredients for success, but more importantly, it is how we use them that makes success.

Also, the constant, at times painstaking, practical application of them is vital if lasting success is to be achieved. The Beatles played in Hamburg for 8 hours a night, for 270 nights over 18 months. Bill Gates notched up 1,575 hours of programming time over a 7 month period (one of many such periods he would spend in front of a computer). These stories give credence to Gary Player’s famous quote, “The more I practise, the luckier I get”

A final aspect of Opportunity is outlined in the role of heritage and meaningful work play in making success extraordinary. Gladwell brilliantly uses the example of the European immigrants to America in the early 20th century to demonstrate how their backgrounds, the skills they learnt in their countries of origin, and the hours of meaningful work they clocked moulded that generation into an industrial and economic powerhouse.

Gladwell outlines the second aspect of success as lying in Legacy. Here he covers the role of culture, and how managing aspects of our culture plays a vital role in determining success. the concepts of honour, respect and discipline are applied in aspects of daily life, from working rice paddies, to education, to flying planes.

In this section, he denotes how respect with regard to dealing with superiors might be a vital aspect in miscommunication among pilots, while pointing out the disciplined culture of learning amongst many East Asian children give them a vital head start to being at the forefront of today’s society. He also outlines that from a culture of hard, effective labour, prosperity must come eventually.

All these aspects are the main ingredients, however, are not enough to clearly define what makes outliers what they are. For me, the most important point of this book is that no-one will ever become successful on their own. In the self-centred Western world that we live in today, it most likely is the main stumbling to many of us achieving the greatness that we all believe lies within.

Malcolm Gladwell adds many examples to illustrate his points. But there are many that are not mentioned in the book that fit quite nicely into his model (Andrew Higgins, of the Higgins boat fame, being one of them). Find an example of your own, and you’ll see that the story will run amazingly parallel to those in this book.

Outliers has definately changed my view of success, and how I can achieve it in my life. By reading this book, I am sure he will change your view too.



1. Outliers – the book | Monastic Musings Too - July 23, 2011

[…] Book Review: Outliers (chrismariofry.wordpress.com) […]

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