My takes from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers was a great book that looks into the history of “superstars”. Malcolm Gladwell dived deep into the stories of different geniuses or superstars. The book was hard to drop when started to read, the author’s use of language and the examples were just kept me reading.

Depending on their mindset one can find this book motivating or demotivating at the same time. When I first started to read, I thought “OK, I don’t have these conditions. Will I ever be successful?” then I continued to read and I convinced myself that I can change some of the conditions and become more successful in the end.

The biggest lesson I took away from the book is that: No success happens alone!

Success requires

  • hard working
  • some sort of support (legacy, sponsor etc.)
  • some luck

Of course, this is highly dependent on your definition of success. If you consider living a happy life with a full stomach and a roof above your head. Then maybe only one point from the above list can fulfil your success definition. But the book talks about the outliers, like Bill Gates or some hockey superstars etc.

The book itself tells the story of success in two parts opportunity and legacy.

The opportunity starts with what I would call the “luck factor”. The best hockey players in Canada share the same birthdate pattern, the best computer wizards were the ones who had access to a computer in 60s, the best legal advisors were born in the same era etc. So the first part of the opportunity is luck.

After luck, the hard work comes into effect. Well known “10,000 hours rule” is also described in the book. But usually, persons with less luck are not able to have the opportunity to study some topic for this many hours. A person should have the luck (or the opportunity), then they should recognise and grab the opportunity to become successful.

Unfortunately, life is not always fair and easygoing for everyone. We see a contradictive example in the book also, a man who has a great talent and is also willing to work hard loses the opportunity. This was because of the geographic conditions they had at the time and even if they contacted people who may sponsor them. All the prospective sponsors rejected him.

A famous successful example, Bill Gates had all three at the same time. His school had a time-sharing computer where they were able to book some time and learn to program, then his mother was able to sponsor this hobby due to her job at that time, finally, Gates was very interested in the topic and worked really hard. So when the time came, he already had 10,000 hours of work completed and was ready to grab the opportunity.

The legacy part is more about the non-financial legacy. E.g. there is a higher chance of a child with educated parents getting higher education compared to a child with non-educated parents. Similar to this, immigrant people of America had parents who are really good at trading or production. As they grow in families with this tradition (or legacy) their vision is improved. They became able to identify gaps in the market, which they filled.

Some of the legacies is also coming from the culture of the country that a person is raised in. For example, Japanese (if I recall correctly) children are more successful in math compared to other children. Because their language makes it simpler to do calculations, they say two ten six, instead of twenty-six. And this changes the way of thinking which leads to a more successful math career.

On the other, some cultures have great respect for superiors and this might block success even lead to failures. e.g. a first officer in a cockpit may not say the captain’s error due to respect and this may cause an accident even a fatal one.

All in all, what I see is success is not caused by a single item. It’s a combination of hard work, luck, changing the mindset from limiting cultures to more open ones.

Thanks for reading so far! If you read the book also I am curious to hear your opinions.

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