Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers was the most thought provoking and intriguing book I’ve ever read.

Quick Synopsis: Gladwell takes a look at a person’s background, culture, ancestors, etc. all to explain how they became who they are. For example, Bill Gates is who we know as a successful and wealthy entrepreneur, making him an outlier. However, his success is not attributed to him alone. It’s due to his family, the school he went to, the hours he spent with computers. It’s even due to the year he was born in.

I had so many moments of utter shock while reading this book. Here are some of the things that I learned:

  • It takes 10,000 hours to reach the level of mastery.

Bill Gates reached his level of mastery with computers because he supposedly used his wealthy school’s computers all the freaking time, starting from a young age. Therefore, by the time he developed Microsoft he had already covered or was near to covering 10,000 hours of work.

If we all put in 10,000 hours solely for our passions and into our desired professions, we too would be on the Forbes List.

  • Privilege and power play a large role in your success.

Gladwell talks about Chris Langan, the smartest man in the world. Chris Langan did not have much power or privilege, causing his intelligence and “success” to go largely unnoticed. Gladwell talks about the moment when Chris’s high school teachers didn’t engage him with more challenging work as he was always 100 steps ahead of all of his peers due to his high IQ. Thus, he spent most of his high school time self-studying and eventually earning a perfect score on the SAT.

Langan proceeded to receive scholarships from 2 colleges. He attended one of them and was subsequently kicked out because his mother did not send in his financial information in time. Gladwell even mentions that Langan was denied his request to attend class at a later time because he had a broken down car.

Chris Langan’s opportunities were bare and few, and even when he wanted to act upon them, he couldn’t because of his social background.

There are A LOT of interesting stuff in this chapter that I can’t summarize here, but I HIGHLY recommend reading it so you get as equally shocked!

  • Culture impacts the type of person you are.

There’s this AMAZING chapter about plane crashes and pilots in this book that absolutely blew my mind. In essence, majority of the plane crashes that have occurred can be understood by taking a look at the ethnicities and cultures of the pilots.

Pilots from countries who value elders and authority, tended to not stand up for themselves and the state of their plane minutes before a crash. For example, Gladwell talks about a Colombian pilot who was unable to clearly state to the headquarters that they are out of fuel and needed to land ASAP because he was primed by his culture to never disobey or raise your voice against authoritative figures.

However, an American pilot may have spoken up immediately and demanded that they find a place to land because American culture claims that “all men are created equal.” American culture does not preach the need to bow down to all elders and people of power.

Hence, culture plays a large role in the type of person we are and could become.

Gladwell also talks about how our ancestors and what they did for a living impacts us today. He uses Asians as examples to explain this topic and why they are so good at math. It was incredible. I don’t want to spoil anything hehe 🙂

  • The time and era you were born in can determine your success.

This concept was simply astounding for me. The year and era you were born in can set you up for success or failure. Gladwell talks about how national-level hockey players tend to always be born in the earlier months. He also gives the examples of how all the multi-billionaires were born in the 1950s. Obviously, Gladwell goes more in depth and explains this idea of time to you in this book.

Overall, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK to understand that a successful person is not someone who is incredibly different from the rest of us. They are the result of numerous factors that we often overlook.