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Outliers: The Story of Success. By Malcolm Gladwell.

Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group, 2008 (E-Book)
Reviewed by Shalom Christian A. Gaerlan

“Outlier” is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie
outside normal experience. These are the people who are so
accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of the ordinary
experience that they are puzzling to the rest of us. Great men and women
are beneficiaries of specialization, collaboration, time, place and culture
Malcolm Gladwell

The book Outliers:

The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell shows why some
people succeed more than the others. The commonalities of successful people like Bill
Gates, Bill Joy, The Beatles, hockey players and also different ethnic race is explained
in this book. Why does Bill Gates succeed at a very young age? Why do some Asians
are better in math than others? Why does The Beetles perform better and becomes a
legend? This book answers all these questions. Malcolm viewed these things in terms
of generation, family, class and culture. He does not question why those people are
successful but how they become successful by narrating their stories and presenting
backgrounds of the individual and scientific research that explains the so-called
Malcolm Gladwell was born to Joyce Gladwell, a psychotherapist and Graham
Gladwell, a mathematician. We could already pinpoint the mental capacity that this
writer has. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree of history and
later on moved to the United States as a journalist in “The New Yorker”. His first book
was, “The Tipping Point” that was published in March 2000.

According to an article
, Outlier is a book that is a long argument with nobody but
Malcolm Gladwell himself. The world for Gladwell is a text that he seeks to decode and

See Q and A with Malcolm Gladwell
See Malcolm Gladwell. (2012).
See Book review of Jason Cowly on Outliers
See Colin Powell reflects on success- Capitol Fire Magazine

interpret. The author considers himself to be an outlier seeking to find out more about
how other people like him came to be who they are. He doesn’t actually tell his own life
story in the book, instead he tells other success stories to match the theory of an outlier.

Malcolm Gladwell as a journalist and a writer wanted to understand success and the
things that lead or enable certain people or groups to achieve it. Colin Powel did say
that “There are no secrets to success.”
This quote is generally true, because if there
was, then everyone would be “successful”, and success would not be termed as such.
Therefore, in order to have a different perspective on achieving success, Gladwell
decided to take a closer look onto studies that seemed to be too focused on a specific
group and as well on famous successful people. Gladwell, decided to look into studies
that defied and questioned norms and on variables that may not seem to be relevant.
Malcolm divided the book into two parts. The first is all about opportunity.
Opportunities come and go and we must all seize those moments in order to achieve
success. Success comes from the innate ability and the influence of their environment
as presented by Malcolm in this book. For example, the Rosetan Community shows that
being an outlier is not a disadvantage, instead they made a world of their own which
was different from the ones outside their community. The residents help each other and
do not think about personal gain or personal interest. In order for them to grow as a
community, they struggled and share common interest in order to build the Rosetan
Community. “They had to look beyond the individual”. It means that there was more
than personal interest in the minds of the people and that treating the whole community,
as family will have great effect on the personality and health of the people living there.
Outliers are those people who break the norms.
In the story of hockey players who were born in the month of January and turned
out to be better than those that were born in December. Also in the story of Bill Gates,
the Beatles, Bill Joy and the American Billionaires, they were born at the right time and
was given the opportunity to nurture their inner talent. They were given the opportunity
earlier than the rest and which some don’t receive. Numbers and experiments were
conducted to show that the society plays a vital role when it comes to success. It is
important to give every opportunity to everyone, not considering the age of the person
to level the playing field but our society clings onto the success of individual merit and
the world we live in and the rules of our society don’t matter. Success is rarely found in
the story of rags to riches. Opportunity is given to the people who wanted it earlier than
the one who wanted it last.
Intelligence is something that we need in order to have success but sometimes it
is the one that makes us normal like the rest of the people around us. Intelligence is
innate from all of us and sometimes exceptional which makes Chris Langan an outlier.
Even if you have higher IQ than the rest, it does not mean that you are better than the
rest. Success is determined on how you use your intelligence at right opportunity to use
it. 10,000 hours is also a factor of success and this is the number of the outliers. It
typically takes an amount of time to master something. People with opportunity have the
chance to do 10,000 hours while others don’t have. They tend to put effort onto their
chosen area and meaningful work. If you feel there is a real purpose to your work, it is
more likely that you will work hard.
The second part of the book is all about legacy. Our values are often
unconsciously handed down to us from generation to generation and it reflects our
current personality. It is a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his
livelihood and self-worth. This is the concept of “culture of honor”. He has to be willing to
fight in response to even the slightest challenge to his reputation (p. 178). Asians are
not innately more intelligent in math because they are smarter but they are more
practiced when it comes to math considering their culture like their use of metric system
of weights and also their language is shorter which uses more logical words. These are
the following stories that Malcolm presented in this book and considered each one of
them as an outlier.
We must always remember that a successful person is a product of his
environment. 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. (p. 306). They are given the opportunity that they need in order to succeed. An
outlier is the one that looks into the world into a whole new perspective and being
different from the rest but in the end, and outlier is not and outlier at all. It is not the
innate talent that you have in order to succeed in life but it is your determination and
hard work also considering the fact, your timing in everything that you do will make you
a successful person. The popular phrase “No man is an island” is applicable because a
person cannot reach his or her goals alone, they need to have some kind of help in the
society in order to reach success.
I encourage the people to read this book because it is a self-motivation book and
to know why the people mentioned in this book were successful. We can become an
outlier and pass it into another generation to have many outliers in the world.