Malcolm Gladwell




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We often hear of how people have been successful as a result of hard work, determination, and personal talent. What we don’t often hear about though, are the external factors that contributed to these people excelling in their fields. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyses the details of the lives of many extraordinary people, revealing something that may come as a shock: to be successful, talent and determination are not enough - there are other factors involved that play a crucial role, but that are often underestimated. The author sheds light on these lucky breaks and arbitrary factors, so that we can become familiar with them and start to think of building a world which could provide everyone with the same level of opportunity. 

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Analysis and key concepts


“Outliers” are things or people that are out of the ordinary: discovering how these anomalies arise can help in understanding the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t


Talent and hard work are not enough to be successful: there is a third, unexpected, component


Being in the right place, at the right time, can be a key to success


To excel in a field, it requires approximately 10,000 hours of practice


IQ only counts up to a certain point: past this point, it is no longer a determining factor


Practical intelligence is the ability to interact with others in the most appropriate way, and is normally learnt from your family


Being born in a period registering less births could translate into greater opportunity in the future


Success (or a lack thereof) can also be traced to cultural legacies


Why are Asians so gifted in maths? Thanks to their language and rice farming




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Learn to look beyond talent and determination to understand how people achieve excellence.
  • Look at success as a culmination of factors, many of which are often bizarre and unexpected.
  • Dream of a fairer world in which each one of us has the chance to realise our full potential.

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian sociologist and scientific journalist. He has worked for the Washington Post, where he was the head of their New York office. He has collaborated with the New Yorker since 1996, with some of his bestsellers deriving from his articles, including The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He has received an honourary degree in literature from the University of Waterloo, and currently resides in New York.

Publishing house:

Penguin Books