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Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers (The Story of Success)

December 9, 2010 Lessons, Living, Read No Comments

I finally found time to read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. What a great read!

It offered insight to my story of success, as well as offered me pointers to keep in mind if I want my kids (if I ever end up having any) to succeed.

Found this picture online that perfectly illustrates Gladwell’s points.  


Direct quotes I took down while reading the book:


The Matthew Effect
There is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success. (p.18)
…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. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine… It is only by asking where [successful people] are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t. (p.19)
Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”… He started out just a little bit better. (p.30)
The 10,000-Hour Rule
It was a story of how the outliers in a particular field reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage. (p.37)
…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. (p.39)
In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours. (p.40)
“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. (p.40)
Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. (p.42)
The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1
Once someone has reached an IQ somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage. (p. 79)
Intelligence has a threshold. (p.80)
The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2
To [psychologist Robert] Sternberg, practical intelligence includes things like “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. (p.101)
…social savvy is knowledge. It’s a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from somewhere, and the place where we seem to get these kinds of attitudes and skills is from our families. (p.102)
The wealthier parents were heavily involved in their children’s free time, shuttling them from one activity to the next, quizzing them about their teachers and coaches and teammates…. That kind of intensive scheduling was almost entirely absent from the lives of the poor children. (p. 103)
[Sociologist Annette] Laureau calls the middle-class parenting style “concerted cultivation.” It’s an attempt to actively “foster and assess a child’s talents, opinions and skills.” Poor parents tend to follow, by contract, a strategy of “accomplishment of natural growth.” They see as their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own…. But in practical terms, concerted cultivation has enormous advantages. The heavily scheduled middle-class child is exposed to a constantly shifting set of experiences. She learns teamwork and how to cope in highly structured settings. She is taught how to cope in highly structured settings. She is taught how to interact comfortably with adults, and to speak up when she needs to. In Lareau’s words, the middle-class children learn a sense of “entitlement.” (Pp.104-105)
The Three Lessons of Joe Flom
Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. They’re products of particular places and environments. (p.119)
…what your parents do for a living, and the assumptions that accompany the class your parents belong to, matter. (p.131)
…if you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires. (p.151)
Their world – their culture and generation and family history – gave them the greatest of opportunities. (p.158)

Harlan, Kentucky
“Culture of honor” means – It’s a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth. (p.167)
The “culture of honor” hypothesis says that it matters where you’re from, not just in terms of where you grew up or where your parents grew up, but in terms of where your great-grandparents and great-great grandparents grew up and even where your great-great-great-grandparents grew up. (p.170)
The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes
Each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific. (p.204)
Our ability to succeed at what we do is powerfully bound up with where we’re from…. (p. 209)
He offered… what everyone… has been offered on the way to success: an opportunity to transform their relationship to their work. (p.219)
Rice Paddies and Math Tests
It turns out that there is also a big difference in how number-naming systems in Western and Asian languages are constructed. (p.228)
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. (p.246)

Buy the book for cheap at Amazon – $14 – Worth it.

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