Cheers Book Club….. Outliers

Title : Outliers, The Story of Success

Author : Malcolm Gladwell

Year of Publication : 2008

Genre: Non-fiction


This book is popular and has been discussed a lot. The most common principle discussed from this book is the 10,000 hour principle. This principle states that regardless of natural talent,  to be an adequate teacher in any work of life, one needs to have practiced for 4,000 hours,  to be very good at any discipline, a minimum of 8,000 hours of deliberate practice is required and  world class expertise in any disciple is attained after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good, it’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

                                                                                                 Malcolm Gladwell, 2008

Lessons from Outliers

Talent is overrated. Often times excellence is a result of plenty hours of unseen practice.One of the main characters discussed in this book is Bill Gates. Gates had practiced and accumulated his 10,000 hours while in middle and high school. He continued for seven consecutive years before he dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year.

Successful people are often times results of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies. Back to Gates. Growing up in Seattle, Gates was fortunate to have numerous opportunities to hone his computer skills. One, two or a few opportunities spread over a lifetime sounds fortunate but  a series of nine linear  opportunities within a consecutive seven years period ranging from his private school having a computer club with access to (and money for) a sophisticated computer, to his childhood home’s proximity to the University of Washington, where he had access to an even more sophisticated computers sounds incredibly fortunate. Especially when you consider how expensive and scarce private computers were in those years.

Gladwell’s “the tallest tree in the forest” analogy emphasizes his point.   According to Gladwell, the tallest tree in the forest comes from a good seed this is not in question. But it did not become the tallest tree in the forest simply because it grew from a good seed; it became the tallest tree because it was planted in good soil and because no other trees blocked its sunlight.

In addition to the main theme of the book, there is invaluable niche knowledge embedded within narrative used to illustrate Malcolm’s points:

Aviation. Particularly, the relationship between senior and junior pilots of commercial airplanes.

Slavery. Particularly how slavery operated in Jamaica.

Rice farming in Asia and how it impacts the mathematical abilities of Asian children.

Details of the early textile industry in New York and how immigrants were able to take advantage of this growing industry specifically because of their unique background.

In conclusion, Gladwell’s point in this book is that society seems to have a profound misunderstanding of success. We often attribute success to a rare combination of talent, motivation and genius, when in fact, successful  people are “the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies”.