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The One Small Problem I Had with Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Updated on October 28, 2012

What factors go into success?

That is the central question of this book. At a fundamental level, it is an attempt to expand the understanding of how many factors contribute to success beyond just hard work and talent.

There is also another element to the book though. Gladwell implicitly argues that hard work and talent matter less than other factors once a certain baseline is reached.

The Implicit Argument

Most of the stories and anecdotes told in Outliers have the same basic structure. They begin with a inspiring tale about the success of a individual or group.

Then that perception is shattered by the presentation of the story through a different lens that focuses on the hidden opportunities or factors that were present.

This structure has the effect of casting a ice cold pail of water over and over again on the idea that hard work and talent are the primary keys to success.

It's also an interesting format since it gives you those two different perspectives to compare against each other.

Other indications of the implicit argument can be particularly found in the chapters about geniuses. Within those pages, Gladwell paints of a picture of how high levels of intellect do not guarantee success.

Throughout the book though, I saw the argument. It just didn't hinder me from being motivated by some of the other lessons contained within.

Lessons to be Learned

The biggest lesson is that there are indeed factors other than hard work and talent that contribute to success. The thing is that all of those factors are not outside of your control.

This book can make you think about what you can do to improve the probability of achieving success in addition to working hard.

Perhaps I'm missing something here. Discussion would be welcome.

Oh, Before You Go

Take a moment to look at my reading list and suggest more great books that I should check out.


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    • KBEvolve profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Brown 

      6 years ago from United States

      I don't think that there is any issue with the definition of success in the book. He approached it from many different angles. Sports, business, innovation, music, mathematics, etc.

      It's a very interesting book. I only have a minor quibble with how it was presented.

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      6 years ago from Paris via California

      I've read his other work and haven't read this yet, but from your review, I can't help wonder if it's the term success that is at issue. Perhaps those hidden opportunities or factors are what makes a person or group successful as in "famous", or gives them an edge towards being so. Fame has a lot of advantages that could also contribute to the notion of success. However, for who equates success with excellence, high income and fast cars are only incidental. Of course I haven't read the book, so I may be commenting in thin air.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Read the book. Mr. Gladwell indicated many components to success such as socioeconomic, cultural/ethnic, birth month, and/or related status. However, the most important component to success is the ability to strategize and work smart to achieve one's goals. One must also learn to think outside the proverbial box.

      Many people especially those who are outside the societal divide i.e. outgroups tend to believe the stereotypical premise that the odd are against them in terms of success. Even though the ingroup or the more predominant groups do have it easier, many members of the outgroup do succeed. It may be harder but they refuse to succumb to the negativity of either their sociocultural and/or socioeconomic environment. In societies, there is the ingroup and outgroup and while the former have more access to the sociocultural and socioeconomic pie than the outgroup, the outgroup can achieve!


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