Outliers: The Story of Success Summary

In this life, people are always looking at the outliers. These are the most successful and the brightest in society. However, most just look at what the most successful people are like in their success and forget about where they are from. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell takes the reader through why some people are successful. 

From millionaires to famous rock bands Malcolm describes all the best and the brightest in this fascinating book. Malcolm is not new to failure himself, and he even says that failure is more fascinating than success because it is how you learn to be successful. This ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ summary will outline some of the lessons and structure of the book for you. 

Part 1: The Opportunity – this part of the book Malcolm talks of how the opportunities are always there and if you are good at what you do the opportunities will find you. Your aim, therefore, should be to become the best at what you are doing without worrying about the possibilities because the opportunities will come and the opportunities are always there. 

The time you continue to put to learn and perfect your skill in whatever it takes you higher and higher up in the pyramid until you become an outlier or success becomes yours. 

In this part of the book, he presents the 10,000-hour rule. In this rule, he notes that most of the people who have made it and became hugely successful at something had had to put in the time. Take for instance two players who have already made it to the top leagues. 

What would be the difference between the two of them? The difference between them is just how hard they work. The one who works harder than the other becomes the very best. 

“The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

He also discusses the problem with the belief that geniuses are born. Nobody is born a genius; instead, people earn genius through putting in the time. Even if you become lucky at some point in life, that is only the first part of being successful, which is opportunity. You will still have to put in the work needed to become successful. The chapters in this part of the book are as follows;

  • The Matthew Effect
  • The 10,000 Hour Rule 
  • The Trouble with Geniuses Part 1
  • The Trouble With Geniuses Part 2
  • The Three Lessons From Joe Flom

Part 2: Legacy – In this part of the book Malcolm talks about values. The values that we have are subconsciously passed on from generation to the other, and they determine behavior. He tells about how growing rice in the paddies in China and other Asian countries, for instance, has helped them become better at math. 

From a young age, the children have to learn how to measure the right amount of fertilizer to use in the paddies, they have to make the choice of which rice strain to plant from hundreds of different ones, the paddies have to be made in certain dimensions and so on. 

It is therefore essential for them to think mathematically and be resilient. These values are passed on from one generation to the other and have made them resilient enough to learn maths quickly and with ease. Further, their number system is quite easy to learn so they have an advantage.

Success therefore as Malcolm notes in this part of the book is not a random act. Success arises out of a predictable and robust set of circumstances and opportunities. Then it is not about the ability but about the attitude and the motivation you have to learn so you can use the opportunities you have. The chapters in this part of the book are;

  • Harlan, Kentucky
  • The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes
  • Rice Paddies and Math Tests
  • Marita’s Bargain

Key lessons from the book

For Malcolm, their recipe for success would look something like this;

Opportunity – opportunity will always present itself. For some people, your birthplace presents an opportunity to be good at something. Opportunity is therefore always there. The upbringing of the child also brings opportunity. 

10,000 Hour Rule – you will have to put in the time to learn and perfect your skill to become successful. This is because geniuses are formed not born. 

Timing – timing is crucial for success and also for opportunity. When you try and fail, it could just be because your timing is wrong especially if you have put in the hard work required to become a master.  

What I Like About the Book

I like that this book presents a message that can resonate with many. People are always choosing the successful as their mentors but really concentrating on how they are after they have achieved success. 

In his book, Malcolm passes a very simple but profound message in his exceptional way of writing. In his book, Malcolm is merely trying to tell the reader that genius is not born, it is formed. I like that this book is highly detailed, well-written and easy to read.

Why You Should Read the Book

This book will help you to get past the idea that you only need to be talented or good at something to make it big. Many people have the potential, but they are just not putting in the required work. 

As Malcolm notes, it takes time to achieve success, and you have to put in more time than everyone else to get there. Reading this book will guide you through how you can grow and become successful through the values you inhabit and the people you surround yourself with.

Next summary: Start With Why

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