Monday, February 23, 2009

Outliers - The Story of Success. (Book Review)

The idea behind the book Outliers is to help people understand success. Explaining why/how certain people become successful, Mr.Gladwell, is convinced that our concept of success is wrong. "We," the public think that successful individuals (like Bill Gates, The Beatles, Mozart & Bobby Fischer) were all somehow fast tracked into being successful. That they were just geniuses and success just happened. You start the book by reading accounts of people's histories as well as facts & figures - all to demonstrate to the reader that it wasn't luck that made them successful, but hard work.

Here is my brief synopsis of the book. To be successful at certain sports, one would have to be born in the month of January to have an advantage. Hold on, on top of that you have to also put in 10,000 hours into your specific skill to be successful. Wait, if you come from a rich social class, that will help you become successful. Um... it seems that some cultural societies might/might not give certain people an edge over others and poor social communities might hold back individuals from reaching their full potential. Wait, wait, I have it now; being in the right place at the right time will make you successful. So maybe, it is just luck and not hard work that makes you successful. Or is it both? Now you understand how/why people become successful? No!

After reading all the facts, figures and testimonials it seems to me that this book never really answers the question it sets out. Like life, there is no simple answer. Too many variables come into play to make someone successful. Also, I for one have always believed people who became successful made it because they worked harder, were smarter, were given an opportunity and ran with it; not because it magically happened.

Other problems with the book are that the chapters progress abruptly - tons of information, figures, quotes and testimonials are all packed into each chapter. But it still all comes across disjointed. Another problem I had was the way Mr.Gladwell uses quotes/references from other articles and books. It is obviously very one sided - he uses supporting quotes that help him sell his heavy-handed view. While reading these "facts" that support his stories you get the feeling as though he left some things out that might contradict his point or better explain it.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book. I heard many great things about it, I tried to understand his points and kept hoping with each chapter that it would get better, but it never did.


  1. I am in the middle of the book and I think it's very good; he makes some very good points about upbringing, location and opportunity. Not to mention the practice factor.....:)

  2. Yes he makes good points - but they are the same common sense points I've been hearing about all my life. Where you grow up effects you, Who your parents are effects you too. How much work you put into your skill effects you. These all combines and shapes your upbringing. Is this really a new idea?