Book Review & Takeaways: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I was lent this book recently after striking up a conversation about The Tipping Point and my friend had read it and also recommended this book.


The experience of reading this book was very similar to 'The Tipping Point'. The whole book has one major, overall, 'argument' to present and each chapter is made of research, stories and case studies that present 'sub-arguments' that support, unpack and flesh out the main argument.


  • Lots of 'aha' moments
  • Intellectual breadth
  • Unbelievable ability to connect the dots by the author


  • Sometimes it feels like you don't need to read the whole book because you can get the point quite early on
  • Can be America-focussed (unsurprisingly but sometimes annoying for a UK reader)
  • Would be nice to know more what the implications of the knowledge are in the world as opposed to just being inspired by his convincing arguments and conclusions drawn

Main points

  • Specific village/community are from like Roseto, a village in Pennsylvania they lived longer because of the sense of community.
  • Top hockey players are all born at the beginning of the year so they are strongest relative to the rest of the year group. Talents matters but strength also matters relative to your peers. It is the same with the Czech soccer teams.
  • Opportunities that allow people to practice more. 10,000 hour rule. E.g. Bill Gates had regular access to a computer terminal for a long period of time which allowed him to learn programming before it became mainstream.
  • The Beatles played shows across Germany before they were really famous which allowed them to get a lot of experience.
  • IQ doesn't help you if you don't have the right opportunity/context/ability to network. Oppenheimer was a genius but he also had the right upbringing, with charming and also understood social relationships and networking.
  • The bringing up of the working classes versus the middle classes. Working class children don't learn as much during the holidays because they are left to their own devices whereas middle class children are taken on trips and taught stuff. Working class kids don't have the same sense of entitlement so don't speak when they were not sure about something.
  • Joe Flom was a Jewish lawyer in New York who did well because he was in the right place at the right time, with the right knowledge. He learnt a lot about company acquisition law before company acquisitions were much more prevalent like they are today. His Jewish background and the Jewish culture of craftsmanship from the textile industry also led him to have that level of detail and craftsmanship in his work.
  • Family traditions such as the revenge culture in the Midwest America passed down through the generations meant that people from certain areas are more likely to resort to violence in conflict.
  • Your country's culture affects the respect for authority and willingness to challenge authority. The example given is Korean airlines who used to have a very high level of crashes because the co-pilot would not question the pilot even though he was about to crash the plane. This is because of the Korean culture when it comes to authority compared to the US which has a much more direct approach and willingness to challenge authority.
  • The willingness to spend longer with the concentration on a problem meant people are better at maths as opposed to a particularly innate talents.
  • Country's agricultural background. For example the culture of rice production is one of craftsmanship because of the amount of work that goes into creating rice paddies. This is in comparison to the Western style arable agriculture which was to plant and wait for it to grow then hibernate over the winter (this is where school terms also come from).
  • KIPP school students were successful because their school student school culture with the work for longer.
  • The luck of family lineage to get out of slavery.
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