Outliers

The Story of Success
Narrated by: Malcolm Gladwell
Length: 7 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (38,698 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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What listeners say about Outliers

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  • 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.

74 people found this helpful

  • 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.


313 people found this 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.

155 people found this 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.

19 people found this 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.

69 people found this 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.

36 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not Really About Outliers.

This books title leads you to believe that it's going to talk about statistical outliers, but it only nominally does that. Gladwell ignores actual outliers in the teeth of the statistical cases he presents.

One of the earliest examples he uses of "Outliers" are individuals in Canadian hockey teams. Because individuals are filtered into teams by their birthdates, the players with earlier birthdays, in January or February for example, have a year of growth ahead of those in the same league with birthdays in December or November, and therefore they are advantaged over those players every single year through school and on up into professional hockey. These players get more advantages because they continue to outperform the others, which causes them to get more advantages, which causes them to continue to outperform the others, ad infinitum. The result? There are a supermajority of professional Canadian hockey players with early birthdays, and a minority with late ones. So far, so good.

He then goes on to say that those with the early birthdays are the outliers that go on to achieve Hockey success later in life. But these only seem like outliers if you consider them against the majority of humans that aren't professional hockey players and never would be. In reality, statistically, the minority of players with birthdays in October through December that nevertheless reach professional status in Hockey and succeed ARE the real Outliers in his sample! They represent a minority but must be truly outstanding individuals, or at least more outstanding than those who succeeded merely because of their fortunate position and nominally superior maturity. These people would be interesting to learn about. He ignores them in his analysis. It's not even clear whether he knows the problem of their existence presents a problem for his thesis.

I wanted to read a book about statistical outliers -- truly outstanding people and what makes them up. Instead, Gladwell conveniently ignores many truly remarkable individuals in his quest to explain away accomplishments that have been reached through privileged position or status.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great audio book

The content was entertaining and fascinating. A lot of "oh wow" moments. What was really good was Malcolm's read. He is an excellent reader--right on point with his inflection and cadence. I thought it had to be a professional reader.

23 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not as revelatory as you'd think

It takes lots of actual practice to master something. It also takes opportunities that are not in our control. So basically, Gladwell is trying to prove Calvinism (hard work + predestination). Pinpointing the web of circumstances that leads to success is something that we obsess over as a culture and Gladwell provides a very interesting analysis of how this works. But I do not feel like I heard any revelations here that I did not learn from my father when he encouraged me to get internships as an undergraduate.

8 people found this 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!

38 people found this helpful

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  • 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

23 people found this helpful

  • 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.

20 people found this 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.

6 people found this 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).

38 people found this 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.

4 people found this 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

3 people found this 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

3 people found this helpful

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    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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-21-20

Does hard work + circumstance shape the outlier?

MG leaves no stone unturned to debunk the myth of the self made man. Excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • laura
  • 04-26-19

Where are the female outliers?

The absence of women in this book provides evidence for an unspoken point that women have not been afforded the circumstances to prevail as outliers. Rather than leave this unaddressed and simply provide a playbook of male leaders, surely a chapter noting why women are absent from the book, is warranted?

16 people found this 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

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Callum
  • 05-23-20

Fascinating & intellectual

Malcolm has created a fantastic and interesting book. It is well written, full of excellent examples and shines light on success in a way I would have never imagined!

Malcolm is also an excellent narrator.

I highly recommend this book.

1 person found this 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 person found this 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 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • Cornel
  • 07-30-20

Simply Sensational

A fantastic, short, well put together book with every page a masterpiece. I would highly recommend this as a staple to any book list.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rachael Quigley
  • 07-04-20

Loved every single chapter!

Another cracking book from Malcolm Gladwell - subject is absolutely fascinating and delivered really well. Would love an outliers 2.0!

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  • MicJaggs
  • 06-01-20

Must read.

Just read it. Stop debating. You won't regret it. Malcom Gladwell hits it out of the Park as usual.