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The Story of Success

Book - 2008
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The best-selling author of Blink identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers, in a resource that covers such topics as the secrets of software billionaires, why certain cultures are associated with better academic performance, and why the Beatles earned their fame.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2008
Characteristics: 309 p. : ill. ; 21 cm
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316017923
Call Number: 158.1 GLADWELL


From Library Staff

In an intriguing analysis, Malcolm Gladwell Identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers, in a resource that covers such topics as the making of billionaires and why the Beatles earned their fame.

2008 -- Gladwell made us rethink how to achieve true success, and Mary Roach made us rethink sex with "Bonk." For a sweeter turn 2008 was the first time readers could travel to a delightful island in "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society."

Like Gladwell’s other books, this one is eminently readable. In addition to the 10,000 Hour Rule, he provides insight into statistical anomalies of success through stories and research. Gladwell is always worth reading.

From the critics

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Mar 20, 2021

I absolutely love nonfiction works that are investigative and pattern-recognizing, as I consider them non-Googleable, non-Wikiable wealth! That makes Outliers my potential favorite. In addition, Malcolm Gladwell was the writer of my other favorite book, The Tipping Point . So, I was thrilled when I picked up this book. But like most investigative non-fiction books, I have some problems with content in this book. While there are obviously a myriad findings unearthed by the author that are breathtaking to comprehend, there are a few that fell short in my opinion. The book is divided into nine chapters, each including a different, unique use-case/case-study and a corresponding pattern recognition.

In the first chapter (actually introduction, but I've taken introduction and epilogue as separate chapters as they're no different in content as far as this book is considered), the author talks about how the positive familial and community interaction in the close knit community of Roseto has resulted in high longevity, extremely low heart related problems etc. I find this pretty obvious and unoriginal after so much research that has gone into unraveling the mystery of the Blue Zone (regions of the world where a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average). The community in Okinawa, the Seventh-Day Adventist community of Loma Linda all point to the same source.

The "Matthew Effect" explained in the second chapter is a real "WOW"! I mean, it seems like this was so easy to find out but hid there for so long, potentially preferring people with certain birth dates way more into professional games than others. Basically, Matthew Effect states that because of the existence of "cut-off" dates for most professional games selection (like professional Hockey, Baseball etc), these games, even at the international level are skewed towards athletes whose dates of birth are just before the cut-off, as opposed to athletes born in months far away from the cut-off date. The author's point being that minor skews like this accumulate over time and events, and eventually have a profound impact on a whole community. The phenomenon is not limited to sports, obviously. So, it's even more impactful in education, jobs etc although the inherent biases are of different types.

In the next chapter where the author investigates the effect of the well known 10,000 hours effort theory, he introduces the idea of "luck". While the chapter eventually goes on to show that a combination of opportunity and 10,000 hours is what leads to a spectacular success like that of say, Bill Gates, Bill Joy, the Beatles etc. I just find this very obvious again. I do agree that the explosion of PCs aided Gates to dominate the world when he had already added 10,000 hours into his kitty. But this is like saying you invested in a stock and sat on it, and when the stock went up, you made money. It's true but there is no other way to look at it. The author's point is probably that just putting 10,000 hours into something without the right chance (the "luck" factor) coming your way won't help you succeed. I don't personally find this a gem of a finding!

Perhaps the most objectionable inference in the book is where the author compares Robert Oppenheimer and Chris Langan (a savant who had one of the highest recorded IQs in the US) and how their lives differed because of the differences in their upbringing. He attributes the mediocre life or even failure of Chris Langan (who was considered a child prodigy) to a very negative family background. While in general this might be true, there are always a ton of exceptions. The author highlights the life of Bill Gates who had a wealthy upbringing, but ignores the upbringing Steve Jobs had who went on to become equally or even more successful. Besides, in the previous chapter, the author describes how the 19th century businessmen were placed in the perfect time in history to make mega-riches, but ignores the fact that the s

Mar 18, 2021

Interesting read about how we judge successful people based on their innate talents and precociousness while not fully analyzing the circumstances and arbitrary factors as well as practice and heritage that were crucial to their successes.

Dec 19, 2020

Very interesting and enlightening book!

Nov 29, 2020

The majority of people wish to achieve some level of success, but are unsure of how to go about it. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell examines the principles of success as well as the success stories of some of the most accomplished people, pointing out certain patterns and universal truths. He explores every aspect of success, from things as obvious as habits to topics as seemingly trivial as the day you were born. It is not about the debate over if it pure hard work or sheer luck that make a person successful; rather, it a combination of a variety of different factors, and it can even be generational. He emphasizes the notion that it is less about being a genius than being savvy enough to recognize certain opportunities and pursuing them.

Although some people dislike nonfiction books, especially those focused on self-improvement, I believe that are crucial because they do exactly that, help people improve themselves. It is definitely one of the most motivating books out there, and extremely famous at that too. This is a must when trying to understand what success truly is, and how to achieve it. My favorite part is that it dispels the notion that one has to be a genius or extremely rich to succeed. Instead, he explains the threshold principle in a way that is easy to understand for everyone, succinctly making his points in a effective manner.

This book is perfect for anyone who seeks to become a better person than they were the day before, who is self-motivated and willing to take action on their desire to achieve success. Individuals who are old and young can apply these principles, and you might just find yourself in a more productive, successful life soon enough!

Age rating: 10+
Star rating: 5 stars

Nov 21, 2020

Kind of uneven. I thought the book started strong but lost course and by the end turned into a nostalgia trip. He has a formula and it is entertaining, but I wanted a little more concreteness. There were a lot of statements that we (as readers) are to assume are facts even though there wasn't a lot of supporting evidence.

FPL_John Oct 05, 2020

I enjoy Malcom Gladwell's work because of his talent for making me see the world in a different way. He pulls together information to make you realize that although you thought you understood how something works, there is really more involved than you realized. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Sep 30, 2020

Outliers is a nonfiction book by Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell. Outliers is a book about the best, and how they became the best. He argues that these outliers are not only outliers because of their abilities but also because of how they were nurtured and the opportunities that they were presented. Gladwell includes many instances of anecdotal evidence from The Beatles to Bill Gates. The book is not very scientific but rather looks at trends by analyzing successful people. This book has also popularized the theory that it takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Overall this book is highly interesting and an enjoyable read but it does lack scientific evidence to back it up. I would rate Outliers four out of five stars.
@Nessie of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Jul 15, 2020

This is one of the most impactful books I've read recently. Gladwell presents us with a well-constructed and thought-provoking examination of the factors that lead to success, and also the dynamics that get in the way.

Feb 08, 2020

This book is very well researched. It teaches us how opportunity plays a critical role in the success of the individual.

A revealing quote:
"No successful person succeeds of their own efforts. They are products of their times, places, and environments."

Jan 13, 2020

Reading a Malcolm Gladwell book is like peeling the layers of an onion but without the tears. Layers and layers of thought. Always thought provoking.

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Oct 17, 2018

"... the Beatles didn't recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a night, seven days a week [for early gigs in Germany]. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you [successful] ...". (p. 150)

Dec 15, 2011

To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.

Nov 05, 2009

... and no one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses - ever makes it alone.


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Aug 16, 2018

hawkinsc thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary
Oct 17, 2018

"... We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally [into existence] ... But that's the wrong lesson. ... To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success ... with a society that provides opportunities for all. ... The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all." (p. 268, 285)


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