Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell (Malcolm)
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Amazon Book Review

  1. There is a logic behind why some people become successful, and it has more to do with legacy and opportunity than high IQ1.
  2. In his latest book, New Yorker contributor Gladwell (Blink, 2005, etc.) casts his inquisitive eye on those who have risen meteorically to the top of their fields, analyzing developmental patterns and searching for a common thread. The author asserts that there is no such thing as a self-made man, that "the true origins of high achievement" lie instead in the circumstances and influences of one's upbringing, combined with excellent timing. The Beatles had Hamburg in 1960-62; Bill Gates had access to an ASR-33 Teletype in 1968. Both put in thousands of hours - Gladwell posits that 10,000 is the magic number - on their craft at a young age, resulting in an above-average head start.
  3. The author makes sure to note that to begin with, these individuals possessed once-in-a-generation talent in their fields. He simply makes the point that both encountered the kind of "right place at the right time" opportunity that allowed them to capitalize on their talent, a delineation that often separates moderate from extraordinary success.
  4. This is also why Asians excel at mathematics - their culture demands it. If other countries schooled their children as rigorously, the author argues, scores would even out.
  5. Gladwell also looks at "demographic luck," the effect of one's birth date. He demonstrates how being born in the decades of the 1830s or 1930s proved an enormous advantage for any future entrepreneur, as both saw economic booms and demographic troughs, meaning that class sizes were small, teachers were overqualified, universities were looking to enroll and companies were looking for employees. In short, possibility comes "from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with."
  6. This theme appears throughout the varied anecdotes, but is it groundbreaking information? At times it seems an exercise in repackaged carpe diem, especially from a mind as attuned as Gladwell's. Nonetheless, the author's lively storytelling and infectious enthusiasm make it an engaging, perhaps even inspiring, read. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
    … (Kirkus Reviews)

Metapsychology Online Review2.
  1. Gladwell's new book has received some lukewarm reviews from the big newspapers. His main message is that those who succeed are able to do so because of the culture they live in and because of lucky accidents, and innate ability is far less important than we often think. Reviewers have pointed out that hardly anyone really thinks that success or failure is always just a matter of innate ability or lack of it, and so Gladwell is pointing out the obvious. They have also complained that Gladwell's examples are often over simplified and his explanations are not always the best available.
  2. The critics are probably right, but they miss the point. Gladwell is a popularizer of science, and he has a knack for setting out modern science in an appealing way. Even if he doesn't get the details completely right, his main message – that we should care about our society as a whole and the opportunities we give people rather than simply say that those with the ability will succeed anyway – is salutary and appealing. Good popularizers are not writing scientific tomes, and they have to simplify discoveries in order to get them across.
  3. Listening to the unabridged audiobook of Outliers, read by Gladwell himself, is an enjoyable experience. I found myself thinking about successful people I know and of how I teach my own students in ways that I would not have done if I had not listened to the book.
  4. His examples are varied: Canadian hockey players, musicians, computer software billionaires, nineteenth century American business magnates, Korean air pilots, Asian people doing mathematics.
  5. Gladwell says that success and failure is not a matter of genetics or innate genius, but of far more random factors, such as opportunities available to people, their abilities to take advantage of opportunities, small differences that lead into large differences between people, and cultural history.
  6. He argues that the Asian traditions of growing rice which require so much determination and hard work all year round mean that those cultures promote hard work in other areas of life, and this work ethic results in a better performance in mathematics.
  7. It's obvious that any such proposed explanation of a "racial" difference will be controversial, and that Gladwell's preferred explanation will be hard to prove. But his explanation of the why most Canadian junior hockey league players were born in January is far more compelling.
  8. As a whole, the book is provocative, but hardly makes an ironclad case against the importance of genetics in many cases of success. How could he? But he does nudge us in the direction of being more ready to look for cultural explanations of success, and to be suspicious of individualistic stories.

In-Page Footnotes ("Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success")

Footnote 2: Review of the full-text Audiobook, Jan 20th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 4), Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success - Introduction: The Roseto Mystery"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success

  1. This introduction starts with a dictionary definition of an outlier, and concludes with a folksy tale of some seemingly-inexplicably healthy population, the outlier-status of which can (allegedly) be explained following a bit of digging.
  2. It is typical of the book, positively and negatively. Gladwell pads out his ideas with jolly tales, which makes for easy reading, but makes it slightly more difficult for the reader to pick up the point of the argument and be able to critique it …

COMMENT: Introduction, "These people were dying of old age. That's it."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The Matthew Effect"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 1: Opportunity - Chapter 1, "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath (Matthew 25:29)."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The 10,000-Hour Rule"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 1: Opportunity - Chapter 2, "In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 1: Opportunity - Chapter 3, "Knowledge of a boy's IQ1 is of little help if you are faced with a formful of clever boys."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 1: Opportunity - Chapter 4, "After protracted negotiations, it was agreed that Robert would be put on probation."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The Three Lessons of Joe Flom"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 1: Opportunity - Chapter 5, "Mary got a quarter."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - Harlan, Kentucky"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 2: Legacy - Chapter 6, "Die like a man, like your brother did."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 2: Legacy - Chapter 7, "Captain, the weather radar has helped us a lot."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - Rice Paddies and Math Tests"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 2: Legacy - Chapter 8, "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - Marita's Bargain"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Part 2: Legacy - Chapter 9, "All my friends now are from KIPP."

"Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success - Epilogue: A Jamaican Story"

Source: Gladwell (Malcolm) - Outliers: The Story of Success
COMMENT: Epilogue, "If a projeny of young colored children is brought forth, these are emancipated."

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