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“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

January 6, 2015

The Story of Success

What lead Bill Gates to become one of the world’s richest men and most successful technology entrepreneurs?  Was he a prodigy?  Did he put in more work than everyone else?  Or was he simply in the right place at the right time?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the ladder has the largest impact on those who are most successful in society.  While work ethic and dedication play a role in success, it is pure luck which leads to overwhelming success.

According to his research, factors which we have little control over play an out-sized role in our futures.  Living in the right location or being born at the right time is more important than alleged natural abilities.

While this idea may seem far fetched, there is substantial evidence to back up his theory.  For example, most of recent U.S. Presidents have attended one of two universities: Harvard or Yale.  Are no other schools capable of training future leaders or is who you know more important than what you know?

My favorite take away from Outliers is what Gladwell calls the “10,000 hour rule”. In this chapter, he argues that innate talent does play a role in success, but that “achievement is talent plus preparation” with the magical number being 10,000; ten thousand hours of practice leads to mastery in most things. Success is a combination of things.  It is achieved through:

  • Some level of talent, combined with
  • 10,000 hours of practice, and
  • A substantial amount of luck

- Casey Richards

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