Outliers: The Story of Success


“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
(First publication: 2008 / This edition: Back Bay Books 2009)
Taken during a catch-up session with my friend at Jones the Grocer

Outliers are those who have been giving opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them. (pg.313)

I finished Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” a little over a week ago. And just five days ago, as soon as I realized that I was getting off from work early that day, I just headed straight to Kinokuniya to get this book, “Outliers”.

You understand that urge and that desperation to get a particular book that you can’t wait and you’re just so antsy and you just want to freaking get it ASAP OR ELSE YOU DON’T KNOW HOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET THROUGH ANOTHER DAY even if you have 50-something unread books lying around at home?

Yes. That was how I felt.

I enjoyed “The Tipping Point” so much and wanted to read more by Gladwell. I saw on Goodreads that “Outliers” actually has better ratings and seems to be even more popular—so that just amplified my need to get the book.

I now have the same antsy-ness feeling about wanting his other book: “Blink”.

I started reading “Outliers” four days ago and I just finished about half an hour ago. It usually takes me longer to read a non-fiction book (this one’s 355 pages, minus the “Notes”) and I’ve been feverish in bed the past three days. Every moment I was up and able and not feverish, I’d pick up this book (always exactly an arm’s reach away from my pillow) and try to get as much read as possible before my fever pulls me back to sleep again.


I assumed this book might be about “how to stand out and be an outlier” and “how to be successful like Bill Gates” and “what does Bill Gate do that makes him so successful and an outlier?”


I’m finding it difficult to try to summarize the whole book. He covers a range of topics and showcases to explain how “success” comes from, yes, your own abilities, but also from your surroundings, your background, your culture, your society, and the timing of everything. He explains how Bill Gates got where he is—aside from the brilliant, genius mind that he has. He explains how the Beatles got their god-like skills and what happened to help them get to where they were (and are). He explains how some kids seem more intelligent than others, but how society often overlooks their cultural backgrounds and how they were raised. He covers topics from football players to plane crashes to Jewish garment businesses.

The stories are all so thought-provoking and entertaining (the perfect combo). It makes me realize how important our family and our backgrounds are, and how that can affect how “successful” we become (of course, the individual themselves has to be determined and motivated too). Gladwell doesn’t discredit “successful” people though—like he’s not saying that they’re successful because of their backgrounds and the timing of everything and not because they’re actually smart. The point of it all is that if more people were given the opportunity and chance, they can all become “successful” too. “Outliers” aren’t really outliers at all. (It makes more sense when you read the book, as Gladwell explains step-by-step.)

As I was reading, I thought that “Wow, this is so interesting and these points make sense… but still, this is Bill Gates and the Beatles and top-notch lawyers you’re talking about.” They all felt so far away. A little halfway through, I was even thinking about my own family and cultural background. Not saying that I’m “successful” or anything, but I was just trying to piece together all the puzzle pieces like Gladwell did with his examples—family, cultural background, family history, society, school, timing of everything. And in the last chapter, to my surprise (and excitement), Gladwell used his own family as an example. It makes his whole “theory” even more grasp-able, I think.

I really enjoyed this read. Enjoyed it extremely. Now I’m just going to be busy planning how to raise my future kids and what type of social environment I want to raise them in and what cultural identities I would or wouldn’t like them to receive from my cultural background (haha).

I would highly recommend this to everyone. It’s an eye-opening read and it’s just amusing. It’s thought-provoking.


Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

Achievement is talent plus preparation. (pg. 41)

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. (pg. 46)

Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us. (pg.174)

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 grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig. (pg.175)

[…] if you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desire. (pg.176)

Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds. (pg.289)

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. (pg.314)


3 thoughts on “Outliers: The Story of Success

  1. Outliers is a book that I will always refer back to. Although I’m young (20 yr) I want to raise my kids by the insights of Ourliers, I want to work towards my goals and dreams knowing that I have been given the chance, and now it’s up to me to take it. Thank you for this amazing review/summary. It just rekindled the love I have for this brilliant piece.


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