Outliers - The Story of Success Book Summary

Posted on July 5th, 2012

Book notes from Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell presents series of compelling stories about the true nature of success. He shows us that success is more complicated than most people think. Successful people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are often the products of hidden advantages of culture, timing, demographics, and luck that helped them become masters in their fields. Reading this book will lead you to reevaluate your own path. This book has the potential to change the way you think about success and obtain a new perspective on the reality of success.

“The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot”.

Common beliefs about success

  • Genius
  • Natural talent

The reality of success

  • Timing
  • Upbringing
  • Cultural Legacy
  • Lucky Opportunities
  • 10,000 Hours of Practice


Where and when you are born in the course of history makes a big difference.

“The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.”


Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you are born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were all make a significant difference in how well you do in the world.

Cultural Legacy

Your culture has a strong influence on your behavior and how persistent you are.


Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities. Extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity.

Success follows a predictable course.

“It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities-and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them”.

10,000 Hours of Practice

“Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder”.

Excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice. The magic number for true expertise is ten thousand hours.

“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.

Intelligence and Success

“The relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage”.

Practical Intelligence

Practical intelligence is the particular skill that allows you to talk your way out of a murder rap, or convince your professor to move you from the morning to the afternoon section.

Practical intelligence is knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.

It is procedural: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it. It’s practical in nature: that is, it’s not knowledge for its own sake.

It’s knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want. It is a kind of intelligence separate from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ.

General intelligence and practical intelligence are “orthogonal”: the presence of one doesn’t imply the presence of the other. You can have lots of analytical intelligence and very little practical intelligence, or lots of practical intelligence and not much analytical intelligence, or you can have lots of both.

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