The Story of Success
Life gets busy. Has Outliers been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.
What do you think about successful people who are ‘self-made’? Are they truly self-made or are they a product of their circumstances, families and external environment?
Is success a product of innate talent, preparation, or opportunity? Or a blend of all the above?
Malcolm Gladwell explores this and more in his book called Outliers. Through his life experiences, Gladwell discovered that successful people have a few commonalities.
Outliers teaches us about the definition of success and how to become successful. It’s a handbook for those hoping to succeed in life and work.
If you’re still wondering, “What is Outliers about?”, stay with us:
About Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker who has worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He had years of experience in non-fiction writing before expanding his repertoire to include novels.
His books focus on social sciences and any unexpected implications he finds in his research. Often, he follows an academic approach through sociology and psychology.
Along with writing, Gladwell also podcasts. He is a co-founder of Pushkin Industries. Through this company, he interviews musicians in the podcast Broken Record. In another podcast, Revisionist History, he evaluates overlooked and misunderstood things.
TIME Magazine included Gladwell on the TIME 100 Most Influential People list in 2005. In 2007, the American Sociological Association gave him their first Award for Excellence. He received this distinction for his reporting of social issues.
In 2007 and 2011, he received honorary degrees from the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto. He also joined the Order of Canada in 2011 and is one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.
Malcolm Gladwell was born in Hampshire, England. His mother was a Jamaican psychotherapist, and his father was a British math professor. He immigrated to Ontario, Canada at 6 and was a national track and field champion at the high school level.
StoryShot #1: Success Isn’t Linear
Success doesn’t come from one factor. There is a multitude of things that go into making someone successful.
Grit and determination aren’t the only factors to consider. Someone’s environment or upbringing also doesn’t predict success.
There’s no way for you to predict or guess what may make you successful. Several factors are working in harmony for someone to become successful.
Success doesn’t just hinge on having one thing that sets you apart from others. It’s about having many things that set you apart from the rest of your peers.
If you’re trying to become one of the successful people referred to as ‘outliers’ in the book, you may not have as much control as you think. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but you should also not get upset about failing occasionally.
Success isn’t as linear as we may think it is. There may be other barriers externally that are preventing you from reaching the success you’re looking for.
StoryShot #2: It Takes 10,000 Hours To Become An Expert at Something
We need 10,000 hours of experience in any undertaking before we can become experts. We can argue that effort doesn’t correlate to success, but it has something to do with it. While no one can succeed at an elite level without having innate talent, there is a point where preparation outweighs talent. Based on observations of top chess players, music composers, and other industry leaders, 10,000 hours is that threshold.
Don’t stop giving it your best just because other factors are at play. Your preparation and practice are essential too.
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It is equally important to put the required 10,000 hours of practice into things we care about. Love what you do to become an expert at it.
If you put 10,000 hours into something you are not truly passionate about, you wouldn’t get the same experience or expertise.
Find the things you love and stick to them. The more effort you put into a particular subject/skill, the more you will get out of it.
If you focus on the long-run benefits of your practice, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
StoryShot #3: Understand Your Culture
Our cultures shape our personalities and capabilities. For example, a tailor will pass down his knowledge of materials and sowing techniques to their children. Similarly, an entrepreneur will encourage their children to start businesses.
Because of the values taught within each culture, its members may lean toward becoming experts in one thing or another.
To lean into your culture, learn more about it. What are its advantages? What about its limitations?
Outliers presents many examples of how culture can affect one’s performance. One such example discusses how the ethnicities of pilots can impact airline safety.
Once you understand your culture, learn to embrace it if you haven’t already.
You’ve likely entangled yourself within your culture since birth. For some of us, that may be a turnoff. That said, we should challenge these thoughts.
It may be a great idea to stick with your culture and all it offers. Your culture may advance your skill development in the field of your choice.
For example, Gladwell talks about how East European immigrants started a clothing business in New York City. Their culture played a significant role in the success of their business venture.
Whether you realize it, culture plays a significant role in who you are. It is also a determinant of your success.
It’s important to remember the term “cultural legacy”. This legacy is what we leave behind for our children, their children, and so on.
The cultural legacy you’re a part of can persist for generations.
Your actions within your culture and how you present that culture to your children matter. As they grow up within their cultures, they may find success with the talents that they have gained from their cultural gifts.
StoryShot #4: Success Lies At The Nexus of Both Luck and Talent
Luck and talent both play critical roles in determining someone’s level of success.
The so-called outliers all enjoyed an element of good luck because they were born in the right place and at the right time to pursue their interests. Timing plays a significant role.
Pursuing acting in the 1500s was significantly less lucrative than it is now. On the other hand, pursuing soap-making now is less lucrative than it was in the 1500s.
You are lucky if you are born at a time when other people value your interests. The level of riches and greatness you achieve is contingent on how much other people appreciate your skills or knowledge. Also, you are even luckier if you have the resources to pursue your expertise.
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With or without luck, talent matters too. The 10,000 hours of practice is essential to becoming an expert, but you must also have some natural aptitude.
If you lack musical talent, 10,000 hours of practice isn’t enough to become renowned for your work. There may not be enough hours in a lifetime to get you where you need to be.
Those who can achieve success with the 10,000 hours rule likely already have a natural talent in their chosen field. Identifying your talent area can help determine which field you should consider for your future.
There’s no guarantee you’ll become a success when you hit your 10,000 hours, but it can get you a lot closer. You can also use the practice time to get ahead.
StoryShot #5: Start Early and Be Patient
Early success is an essential indicator of later success. Cultivating your talents and skills early can help you reach your potential faster.
You’re more likely to become successful by the time you hit the prime of your life.
You can achieve success at any age. Starting later isn’t the end of the world, either. But, it can deter the traditional idea of success by a certain age that we are conditioned to seeing.
Small things done today have significant repercussions in the future. Small, but regular progressions can build up to transformative change over time.
There’s an example that compares the English and Chinese numerical system. Chinese numbers are brief as compared to English numbers. Because of this slight difference, people who speak Chinese can recite digits more quickly than people who speak English.
This slight difference is why many Chinese speakers excel in mathematics. They likely perform arithmetic problems quickly and more easily than English speakers.
These differences may account for the schooling advantages that students who speak Chinese have.
Even this slight difference in language can account for differences in success rates.
Don’t uproot your entire language, although learning several languages may be beneficial. Instead, consider the systems you use to do your daily tasks.
Are you making simple things more complicated? Are there ways to make complex things simpler?
We rate this timeless book 4.3/5.
Disclaimer: This is an unofficial summary and analysis.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in June 2022.
PDF, Free Audiobook, Infographic and Animated Book Summary of Outliers
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