#JCarReads | Outliers: The Story of Success

“The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?”

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages today that determine success–the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history–with a society that provides opportunities for all.”


Outliers….wow. I don’t even know where to start. You know those books that stretch your way of thinking so much? That blow your mind every ten pages? That set off lightbulbs like, “Whattttt, yes, yes!” That was this book for me. Malcolm Gladwell truly outdid himself in this one. This book challenges the notion that the greatest of our kind are all self-made, that they had no help. It dives deep into the meaning of success and debunks the societal push that those people, the “greats,” are just a different species and did it all on their own. It explores where we are from, the opportunities we had, and the hard work put in as the main factors that can be found among all of the people we deem amazing. Mozart, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, The Beatles, Steve Jobs and others are analyzed as proof that his theories are indeed real. He majestically describes how our circumstances dictate so much of our lives, and how good and terrible circumstances all can lead to greatness if the times are right. It makes you want to look at where you came from, the opportunities you had, the opportunities you seized, those you didn’t….and so much more. The beautiful thing about this book is that it re-writes the narrative that success belongs to a group of select few. Your life can set you up for amazing feats, rest assured. This book makes you so thankful for the positive and negatives in your life. It truly is in my top five favorite books of all time and is indeed a must-read for everyone. I couldn’t urge you more.

Here are some of my favorites quotes from the book:

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”

“Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.”

“Do you see the consequences of the way we have chosen to think about success? Because we so profoundly personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung…We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And most of all, we become much too passive. We overlook just how large a role we all play—and by “we” I mean society—in determining who makes it and who doesn’t.”

“Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.”

“For almost a generation, psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some do – the innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger role preparation seems to play.”

“Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

“Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.”

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

“Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”

“Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig. (150)”

“I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing….It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

malcolm gladwell

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