Learn what sets high achievers apart -- from Bill Gates to the Beatles -- in this #1 bestseller from "a singular talent" (New York Times Book Review).
In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What everyone remembers about Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. But the bestselling Canadian author also argues that it takes a run of good fortune going back generations. Gladwell also opens up about himself, exploring how his heritage as a biracial descendent of a Jamaican slave shaped his own life and studies; hearing him read the book’s deeply personal closing section is an intimate, touching experience.
SignatureReviewed by Leslie ChangIn Outliers, Gladwell (The Tipping Point) once again proves masterful in a genre he essentially pioneered the book that illuminates secret patterns behind everyday phenomena. His gift for spotting an intriguing mystery, luring the reader in, then gradually revealing his lessons in lucid prose, is on vivid display. Outliers begins with a provocative look at why certain five-year-old boys enjoy an advantage in ice hockey, and how these advantages accumulate over time. We learn what Bill Gates, the Beatles and Mozart had in common: along with talent and ambition, each enjoyed an unusual opportunity to intensively cultivate a skill that allowed them to rise above their peers. A detailed investigation of the unique culture and skills of Eastern European Jewish immigrants persuasively explains their rise in 20th-century New York, first in the garment trade and then in the legal profession. Through case studies ranging from Canadian junior hockey champions to the robber barons of the Gilded Age, from Asian math whizzes to software entrepreneurs to the rise of his own family in Jamaica, Gladwell tears down the myth of individual merit to explore how culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck account for success and how historical legacies can hold others back despite ample individual gifts. Even as we know how many of these stories end, Gladwell restores the suspense and serendipity to these narratives that make them fresh and surprising.One hazard of this genre is glibness. In seeking to understand why Asian children score higher on math tests, Gladwell explores the persistence and painstaking labor required to cultivate rice as it has been done in East Asia for thousands of years; though fascinating in its details, the study does not prove that a rice-growing heritage explains math prowess, as Gladwell asserts. Another pitfall is the urge to state the obvious: "No one," Gladwell concludes in a chapter comparing a high-IQ failure named Chris Langan with the brilliantly successful J. Robert Oppenheimer, "not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires and not even geniuses ever makes it alone." But who in this day and age believes that a high intelligence quotient in itself promises success? In structuring his book against that assumption, Gladwell has set up a decidedly flimsy straw man. In the end it is the seemingly airtight nature of Gladwell's arguments that works against him. His conclusions are built almost exclusively on the findings of others sociologists, psychologists, economists, historians yet he rarely delves into the methodology behind those studies. And he is free to cherry-pick those cases that best illustrate his points; one is always left wondering about the data he evaluated and rejected because it did not support his argument, or perhaps contradicted it altogether. Real life is seldom as neat as it appears in a Malcolm Gladwell book. Leslie T. Chang is the author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau).
Customer ReviewsSee All
Interesting but Not Particularly Actionable
The thesis of “Outliers” is that we are all largely a product of our environments, and that the greatest among us benefit from being part of the right environments in addition to having certain innate talent as a prerequisite. Gladwell’s arguments are informative and salient, but if you’re approaching the book for advice, I don’t think there’s a lot of actionable information.
Nature vs Nurture
The debate of Nature versus Nurture is an old one. Hero culture, that idea of individual exceptionalism willed from “boot strap” beginnings, prevails heavily in the US. What this vision lacks is the detailed history and nuanced perspective on all of the circumstances that set up success in spite of all other factors.
Malcolm Gladwell does another masterful job of diving into the complexities of social psychology; employing his usual story telling narrative style, along with data, and engaging anecdotes. Specifically, this book navigates through relatedness and definitions of IQ, EQ, and SQ. It builds from those foundations to ask how the odd formula of balancing those three along with “lucky” breaks help us see the true story behind success and failure.
My individual perspective leads me to believe that who we are comes down to 1 part nature (IQ) plus 2 parts nurture (environment [EQ + SQ]). The bigger take away is that we have to really look at, what Gladwell calls the Cultural Heredity, of various scenarios to get to the root circumstances that filter people into successful, average, and failing buckets. Then ask ourselves, is the system itself producing outliers by way of some unseen flaw or is the playing field level and we are really seeing the cream of the crop?