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Book:  Outliers

Author:  Malcom Gladwell

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: the story of success. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in a given area.  No one has ye found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. (pg. 40)

  2. Practical intelligence is not genetic and it is not racial. It’s a cultural advantage - children who come from educated families have been shown the rules of the game. (pg. 107)

  3. Virtually every success story involves someone working hard than their peers. Working really hard is what successful people do. (pg. 239)


Other Key Ideas:

If you make a decisions about who is good and who is not good at an early age; if you separate the “talented” from the “untalented”; and if you provide the “talented” with a superior experience, then you’re going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people. (pg. 25)

It is those who are successful who most likely had special opportunities that lead to further success. (pg. 30)

Is there such a thing as innate talent?  The obvious answer is yes. Not every basketball player over 6 feet 5 inches ends up playing at the professional level.  Only some do - the innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. However, the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role natural talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation plays. (pg. 38)

The people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.  They work much, much harder. (pg. 39)

Ten years is roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice - the magic number of greatness. (pg. 41)

What truly distinguishes geniuses is not their extraordinary talent but their extraordinary opportunities. (pg. 55)

We pretend success is exclusively a matter of individual merit.  But there’s nothing to suggest things are that simple. These are stories, instead, about people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it.  Their success was not just of their own making - it was a product of the world in which they grew up. (pg. 67)

Practical intelligence includes knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.  It is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it. It is a kind of intelligence separate from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ. (pg. 101)

Middle class parenting style is “concerted cultivation” - an attempt to foster and assess a child’s talents, opinions, and skills.  Poor parent parenting style is “accomplishment of natural growth” - their responsibility is to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own. While one style isn’t morally better than the other, the middle class style has some enormous advantages because children as exposed to different experiences, they are in highly structured settings, and they learn to ask questions.  By contrast, poor children learn to have a sense of distance, distrust, and constraint and don’t learn to customize whatever environment they are in for their best purposes. (pg. 104)​

Students with high IQ’s were followed throughout their life and their success as an adult was measured - the only thing that mattered was their family background. (pg. 112)​

Schools work.  The only problem with school, for the kids who aren’t achieving, is that there isn’t enough of it.  When it comes to reading skills, poor kids learn nothing when school is not in session. Poor kids may out-learn rich kids during the school year, but during the summer, they fall far behind. (pg. 258)

The school year in the US is 180 days long.  The South Korean school year is 220 days long.  The Japanese school is year 243 days long. No wonder Asian students are learning more than US students. (pg. 260)

We are so caught up in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth.  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. (pg. 268)

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