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Outliers

The Story of Success
Narrated by: Malcolm Gladwell
Length: 7 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (32,188 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" - the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

©2008 Malcom Gladwell (P)2008 Hachette Audio

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Engaging, but overrated

Outliers has many interesting statistical anecdotes sprinkled throughout, to be sure. My interest was held. But at its core, the book's central theme is simply "successful people are aided in their success by their families, culture, education and other chance factors. They could not have done it alone." This is not exactly a particularly profound revelation. Gladwell repeatedly asserts that most people think Bill Gates-type successes are simply due to that person's raw talent and little else. But is that really the case? Does anybody really think Bill Gates could have achieved what he did had he been born in Botswana, for example? What's more, while crediting these outside factors with making these "outliers" possible, he fails to note that in almost every case, hundreds if not thousands or even more other people had virtually identical birth situations, yet failed to achieve greatness. Gladwell's goal seems to be an attempt to take the shine off of society's great success stories by, in effect, claiming they just got lucky. But I think the formula for producing an outlier is more complex than that. Too often in this book, Gladwell seems to be profoundly stating the obvious.
Gladwell's narration of his own work is generally skillful and an easy listen.


232 of 260 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Captivating (if not an outlier)

Regardless of what you ultimately think of the author's analysis, Gladwell is a masterful storyteller, weaving together interesting anecdotes from such diverse sources as plane crash research to hillbilly feuds to standardized math tests. That Gladwell narrates the audio book himself adds greatly to the listening experience. Critics will complain that his thesis is obvious (that opportunity, cultural inheritence and hard work play key roles in success), or that his examples are selective and ignore in turn outliers that don't illustrate his points -- or, somewhat inconsistently, both. But Gladwell's books are successful because he examines phenomena and topics of importance in an accessible and entertaining way. No one should mistake Malcolm Gladwell for a big thinker like, say, Stephen J. Gould, but Gladwell would be the first one to tell you that he's no outlier. Don't accept everything the author says as truth revealed, but do listen to this book -- it's one of the best non-fiction offerings available through Audible.

136 of 155 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Are you and outlier? How did you become one?

The outliers in this book are people who have either succeeded or failed beyond expectation. Besides intelligence, what other factors make people extremely successful? Some of the questions that are posed and answered are:

Why are most professional hockey players born Jan-
Mar?
Why were 9 of the top wealthiest men of ALL time (cleopatra to present) born in the 1830's?

Why are many of the key people in computer technology born between 1953 and 1955? W

hy did some immigrant groups do better than others?

Why do asians do better in math?

These are interesting questions and interesting observations are provided. It is not clear if even the author has an overall opinion of if you can control your own destiny. He swings from chapters where when you were born is the largest factor, to other cases where simply working hard and smarts gets you ahead. Perhaps the answer is you need both to become a Bill Gates or a Rockefeller. However, he makes an excellent case of how external factors often set you up for success.

The other concept that is presented is the idea of working hard enough and long enough at something to become expert at something. Those that were wildly successful were experts at the right time in history.

The audio book is not referenced so if you want to read the studies cited for yourself, you will need to get the book.

If you have read Drunkard's Walk and Supercrunchers, this is an interesting and important addition to the factors that govern success.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very Interesting!

Gladwell sets out to explain how the top people in any field were able to get there. The explanations can be very surprising. I was very engaged throughout the whole book. He talked a lot about education, and having been a public school teacher for the last 27 years, I found it absorbing, hopeful, and found myself wishing that I had known some of these things 27 years ago.

Gladwell narrates his own book, which sometimes turns out well, and sometimes not so much. Although obviously not a professional, he has a pleasing way of reading. I wouldn't be choosing a book on account of him reading it however. Still, it was very "listenable" and I enjoyed it very much.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting

This was a pretty interesting book. I don't agree with all of the reasoning, but it's an interesting theory.

The one downside to this book is that if you're looking for motivation, it might work the opposite effect.

This book is about how luck and certain circumstances make you more likely to be successful such as your birthdate, ethnicity, and religion.

If you easily see your circumstances as beyond your control, you may read this book and feel disheartened that you're not lucky or have the right circumstances to be successful.

I believe luck is part of it, but drive and ambition are also important too. You DO have the power to alter your circumstances, even if you've not been given special advantages.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

This book should be called 'selective evidence'

Whilst a lot of the ideas in this book are not Gladwell's alone, he takes responsibility for presenting them as if they were fact. Some parts are fascinating - such as the investigation of pilot errors which lead to crashes - but much of it falls woefully short of sound argument. The main points in the book are either obvious or highly questionable: intelligence alone is no trigger for success; luck is big factor in all great achievements; 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve excellence at anything.

The examples he provides completely ignore the possibility that timing is not just luck, but actually a inherent quality of the thought process that goes into the idea of the business in the first place. Did Bill Gates really become so successful purely because he was: a) in the right place at the right time, and b) put in 10,000 hours of programming in an age when computers were hard to come by? By drawing these conclusions he overlooks the unprovable possibility that Gates may have become successful in another area had he not been born at the right time to start Microsoft.

Were the Beatles successful because of their 10,000 hours of practice in German nightclubs and the like before their 'breakthrough' US number one? Even if you ignore Gladwell's convenient use of their US breakthrough to mark his 10,000 hour cut-off (coming 18 months after their UK success), were they really successful because of the amount of practice they put in? Was it merely musical competence that raised them above their peers? What about inspiration, creative ideas, charisma, chemistry or pure unteachable songwriting genius? And what about the likes of Nick Drake, or Kurt Cobain, or Buddy Holly? They could not have possibly put in the 10,000 hours 'required' practice as prescribed by Gladwell. There must be hundreds or thousands more in the world of music, film, literature, or even business who do not conform to the 10,000 hour rule. Yet they are conveniently overlooked.

45 of 54 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Intriguing but the research is questionable

This book is quite intriguing, but often as I listened I began to wonder about his research methodology. His facts, while compelling seem to be only part of the picture and I began to wonder as to how much picking and choosing of facts was going on to support his points. His determination to support his rather deterministic view is clear throughout the piece.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!

Gladwell is a fine writer and this book, in the same style as Blink, explores the real factors that contribute to the success of those we think are so above and beyond us (Bill Gates, the Beatles, etc.). Gladwell makes it clear that their talent, drive, energy, and intelligence WERE key to their success but that these, alone, would not have done it for them. They needed unusual opportunities. In fact, the opportunities given them that were not given others were as important to their achievements as their personal qualities. This book helps reduce the "superstars" down to human level. If you had been given the opportunities these were, you might have achieved what they did or more!

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book; well adapted for the audio format

Unusual take on a topic that is taken for granted. The author's voice enhances the message-highly recommended audiobook-perhaps my best book of the year!

36 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Too many examples, not enough ideas...

Would you try another book from Malcolm Gladwell and/or Malcolm Gladwell?

I am rating this book at 3 stars because there are too many examples and statistics terms used by the author; however, the main ideas are simple and were very well presented on a book summary I read online at no cost. Though I enjoyed listening to the book, I feel reading the book summary would have been enough.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The relation between the facts as presented by the author are certainly interesting parts of the book. The least interesting is where the author gets caught up on statistical data and tries to reinforce a point with too many examples.

What does Malcolm Gladwell bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Not sure.

Do you think Outliers needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I wouldnt buy a follow up book.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dawn
  • 05-20-10

Riveting - enjoyed it much more than the paperback

Malcolm Gladwell is a terrific writer; he's also an experienced and effective presenter. So when he's reading his own material it's a compelling package and I was totally hooked.
He's dug up some fascinating statistics to back up his overall hypothesis: when someone is exceptional at something it's not just a case of luck or hard work.
IT millionaires all born in the same 3-year period; high performers who all put in more than 10,000 hours of practice; entrepreneurs whose experience of being immigrants influenced who they knew and what they did - and many more fascinating examples.
I'll definitely be listening to this again.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 12-23-12

I never thought about it that way...

As a teacher I have spent years praising kids for being smart, then, however,they rely on that to wing the exams. now I praise them for the amount of hard work they do to achieve their goals and they do better.

Inspiring book, well read, and it has application outside its covers.

Mark from Enfield

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 08-04-12

Just so stories

Mr Gladwell has a nice voice and is a natural storyteller, but unfortunately he cannot think straight for an extended period (such as a book). He contradicts himself: at one point, to succeed you need the 'right', well connected, parents (high IQ elementary kids) at another point the key to success (for New York lawyers in the 1970s) is to be born on the wrong side of the tracks (jewish immigrant). He has extraordinarily low standards of 'proof': having demonstrated that certain successes (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc.) got lucky breaks, he then breezily states, 'Now we have shown that circumstances are actually more important than raw talent'. I find this very irritating. The main thesis seems to be 'you need luck as well as talent'. Duh?? Is that a thesis or a statement of the bloody obvious? The three stars is because, despite all this, Outliers is quite listenable. It is so low powered and well read that you never need to hit the repeat button, which is handy if your hands are muddy (as mine usually are when I'm audioing).

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 06-26-17

Very engaging

Its one of those books you can't stop listening to. I do feel however there isn't many ways to apply this to your life.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Walter Rothon
  • 04-07-13

Interesting, engaging and very informative

If you've read Freakonomics, then you'll love this. Malcolm Gladwell delves deep into the reasons and circumstances around what makes some people more successful than others. The people and groups he highlights will surprise you - but more so you'll be amazed at what things had to align for them to reach that point of success. Easy to listen to, simply stated but very engaging it was hard to pause while listening on my commute to work.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alex King
  • 08-05-17

Absolutely mindblowing!

A truly thought provoking book. I Have to listen to it again! Highly recommended book

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-31-17

Brilliant

I enjoyed this book I could not put it down , I have learned some fascinating things

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Derek
  • 07-21-17

Amusing stories of success from a different view

This book is really well read by the author. The viewpoint he provides on how some people have got where they are challenges the idea that we are products of ourselves. He sets out to prove this point with a series of cases, each of which is entertaining to consider, but is by no means an exhaustive list. As such his argument is interesting and worth considering, but not rigorously examined.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • nicholas legge
  • 04-22-17

Full of repetitive facts and stories

I cannot stop talking about this book. It is so interesting it just makes you pass on the knowledge but with vigour.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rentaghost
  • 03-09-17

fascinating insight

Excellent listening, well researched but not too heavy. Demystifies success. well narrated by the author too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-20-19

Some good stuff with some terrible stuff

I really enjoyed how the author explored the cultural / luck aspects of success, breaking down idea that success is all about individual talent and hard work. However, the author has somehow managed to write an entire book about privilege, whilst missing the entire conversation about privilege.

Almost all of the stories are about men, and almost every single academic he references is a man. He is over 75% of the way through the book before he discusses a women, and the two women he does discuss (one of whom is his mother) aren't famous and didn't achieve anything particularly noteworthy. Compared with his discussions of men which included likes of Bill Gates, this is frankly appalling (Oprah Winfrey springs to mind as an obvious "outlier" he could have discussed).

He completely misses any discussion of the "structural advantage" of gender, despite a significant portion of the book being dedicated to "structural advantage". He only discusses race at the very end in the context of Jamaica, so misses the profound structural advantages of being white in America and other Western countries. He also never discusses the advantages of being straight, or non-disabled, or any other form of privilege.

I expect better from a book written in 2008.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Igor
  • 05-11-17

great book highly recommended !!!!

Very insightful and shows new ways to look at factors that underpin success... probably good things to consider by parents when signing up kids in extra curricular activities

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kevin
  • 04-17-17

A fascinating analysis of success

Another great MG read / listen. Probably my favourite so far and a much more in depth analysis in comparison to his others. You're bound to learn something about why some have succeeded and others have not. Fascinating and engaging and well worth the listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brendan
  • 02-19-17

Such an entertaining book

I really enjoyed this even though it was short. I loved the aviation chapter and the last chapter at the very with a personal touch was great. I listened to every word and the narration was on point. I'd listen to this again for sure.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Melissa
  • 02-09-17

Perspective

I've always been a believer that you make your own luck. With hard work and with practice patience and persistence. This book has made me realise there are so many other factors to opportunities that arise in ones life. I definitely have a new perspective. Great book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kieran.S
  • 11-22-16

Great

I've always struggled to finish books as I get bored easily. I loved it and found it easy to get through as well as being very insightful and interesting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Arti
  • 09-08-19

Great for new parents

I took it up curiously without knowing much of what to expect ! But got hooked in a few chapters and found it quite eye opening, gave me great insights of how I can do the best I can to allow my kid’s potential to manifest in the real world (& make the most of my own)
Great read. Highly recommended !!!!!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Raph bianchini
  • 08-23-19

Very interesting to think about!

Great listening to start to finish. Very interesting to think about for sure. About to listen to more of his books.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Megan Giliam
  • 07-08-19

Recommend to all

Great book. Very engaging, thought provoking and we'll paced. I'd highly recommend this book to everyone.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-26-19

A holistic view on how success is achieved

The book is well worth listening to one of my favourite audio books to date