Outliers summary


Rating: 9/10

Author: Malcolm Gladwell Read The Original

High-Level Thoughts

One of the most influential books I have ever read. This was one of the first books I read in my journey of self-improvement, and it completely changed my mindset on the concepts of success and talent. Gladwell broke down the countless myths I subscribed to and most importantly made me fall in love with reading again. Gladwell truly is a "genius" when it comes to his ability to write. He is able to turn seemingly boring case studies filled with statistics and jargon into fascinating stories that everyone can understand and relate to.

Outliers Summary

Gladwell breaks the belief that successful individuals were simply born that way. Whether it be professional athletes, billionaires, or rockstar scientists. These are simply outliers in data and can be explained if we just take the time to look at the patterns and the time frames they occurred. After you cross a certain skill threshold, your talent won't help you, the month you're born in matters, and where you come from is important.

Timing and Opportunity

Here is the exact breakdown of elite hockey players in Canada, by Canadian psychologist Roger Barnsley

  • 40% are born between January and March
  • 30% are born between April and June
  • 20% are born between July and September
  • 10% are born between October and December

Cutoff dates for students joining school are usually in September/October, this means there will be students who are at least one year apart. This may not seem like much but when your in 2nd grade having a brain that is a full 12 months more developed than your peers can be a huge advantage. This advantage will continue to compound into middle school, high school and even college. All the time you'll be thinking "I was born smart, I've always been number one in my class"

Where, and the year you were born can influence your luck. In the list of the richest people in history, 14/75 are American’s born in the 1860’s and 1870’s. This was when the industrial revolution was taking off, and the railways were being built across America and Wall Street started up.  This is the same case for Silicon Valley giants.

10,000 Hours

This is typically the amount of time it takes for you to master something. After the book was published, many experts were quick to point out that it's not the number of hours you practice but how you spend those hours practicing. I agree with this however it doesn't take away from the fact that you need to put in long hours if you want to reach outlier status.

Psychologist Anders Ericsson (author of 🗻 Peak) conducted a study at Berlin’s Academy of Music. He grouped the school’s violinists into three tiers according to ability and asked each student how many hours of violin they had practiced throughout their lives. Those in the top tier had practiced a total of 10,000 hours, those in the middle had practiced for 8,000 hours, and those in the bottom tier, 4,000. Ericsson then repeated the study with the academy’s pianists and arrived at the same result.

Yes, talent matters, how we practice matters, but after a certain point, it's who's willing to stay in gym longer that reach the summit.

Upbringing leads to opportunity

Sociologist, Annette Lareau studied 3rd graders in a long term ethnographic study. She concluded that involved parents vs. non-involved parents was the key difference that led to an individual’s success in life.

Involved parents talk to their kids more and critically provide more opportunity for them (by taking them to museums, putting them into summer school, helping them with their homework etc etc).

They also develop a sense of entitlement so they are less likely to give up when hearing the first no.

Wealthy kids tend to spend their summers at expensive camps and other programs, the poor are more likely to be at home playing video games or just hanging out. So while the rich kids accelerate their knowledge and skills, poorer kids are losing ground. This small difference will continue to compound and snowball into adult life.

Bill Gates

We assume that Gates was born a computing genius destined to become a world-changing billionaire. This is the story we like to tell ourselves, it sounds cool, and it gives us an excuse not to even bother trying. Gladwell, however, sees something very different when looking at Gate's past life. Born at the precipice of the computing age, Bill was one of the few people on planet Earth who had access to a computer that he could spend hours on end coding on. By the time he was 20 he was practically a computer "genius" thanks to the 10,000 hours he racked up practicing in middle and high school. Take this coding "talent", vision/ambition Gates had, and the era Bill was born in and Microsoft doesn't seem like a mysterious company crafted by God.

Liked this post? Get articles, recommendations,
and insights straight to your inbox.