Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell Summary

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: A Book Summary, Review, and Critique

Have you heard of the 10,000 hours rule? Popularized by the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, it basically says that you need 10,000 hours to become a master or expert in a field.

Since then, it’s become a mainstream term in pop culture, even mentioned by famous artists:

Macklemore wrote a song about it.

Ed Sheeran agrees with it:

Well, it was popularized by the famous book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. But there are myths that need debunking about it…

Malcolm actually said that this idea was oversimplified by pop culture. Just because you practice 10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee success if you have no natural talent.

And he said it doesn’t apply to some things like sports. I would add that it’s not a specific number. It’s just a ballpark range.

I wanted to share some of the best advice in the book and give a review on it.

One of the big conclusions that Malcolm Gladwell tried to make in the book is that if you look at the world’s most successful people, they wouldn’t have gotten there without the resources and luck they had.

For instance, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both had access to some of the earliest computers in the world far beyond their peers.

However, I think people can take this the wrong way. They can use this as an excuse to not even try at improving their lives.

Gladwell is not saying that if you didn’t have everything handed to you on a silver platter on birth, you’re screwed.

He’s saying that out of the 7+ billion people on Earth, the world’s absolute best had to have a mixture of everything including hard work and luck to get there.

To be honest, I’m not sure if he fully understands this himself. In the book, he interviews Chris Langan, who is apparently the man with the world’s highest IQ. The tone of which he wrote about him was one of pity, as if he had all the brains to be a genius but just wasn’t given the right education.

That really is his story if you read it in the book. He was extremely gifted from birth but had an abusive upbringing and an education that didn’t value or reward his brains at all.

Malcolm Gladwell even mentioned that he offered to put in a good word for Chris to work at an Ivy League school, which Chris turned down because he said he wouldn’t be taken seriously. I watched numerous interviews with Chris on YouTube and he seems to have a bitter, angry attitude about his situation even though he’s gotten old now.

My theory is that Chris neglected fundamental personal development attitudes and mindsets, which prevented his success. Instead, he clung onto an attitude of deserving to be great because of his superior IQ.

Most successful people I’ve studied have thrown away the notion that the world owes them anything and made the best of their situation. A pessimistic attitude of entitlement keeps you stuck.

I recognize it because I used to have this myself.

He was still working as a farmhand and bouncer at a bar, even though he could do quantum physics in his head.

Here’s the thing: if you’re so fortunate to be born in an economy like the United States, you can succeed and get where you want if you take full responsibility and use the Laws of Success.

Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in an interview that he wrote the book to disprove this point.

But I would argue he cherrypicked the world’s best people. In those cases, it is true. I can’t deny that many Gold medal gymnasts often had access to the world’s best coaches before they were 5 years old. HOWEVER, there are plenty of people who were abused, came from homelessness, had no education at all, and rose to great wealth.

I challenge Malcolm Gladwell to do what any good scientist would do and write another book trying to disprove what he believes with contrary evidence.

Richard Branson dropped out of high school in England and now he’s a billionaire. Chris Gardner and John Paul DeJoria both lived on the streets with their children and now one is a multi-millionaire and the other is a billionaire.

Brian Tracy failed out of school and spent a decade getting fired from all sorts of manual labor jobs and now he’s one of the most successful businessman and motivation speakers of his time.

The point of what I’m saying is that for the best of the best in a world of 7 billion people, these top athletes and businessmen often have close to everything align in their favor: hard work, luck, genetics, access to resources, and so on. However, many of us can still achieve a ton of our goals and life dreams if we work towards it.

Going from broke to millionaire isn’t “sensational” or putting you in the best of the best. There are tens of thousands of millionaires and that number is growing every hour. It’s do-able. Maybe your goal isn’t money. It could be getting the education you want. It’s possible.

I think Brian Tracy illustrates how you can do this the best. I’ve studied him intensely and there are a few key behaviors he says changed his life. These are key things that separate him from Chris Langham.

Remember how I said I used to have a bitter attitude at times? That’s the first thing: After spending years going from job to job, Brian made a breakthrough when he decided to change his attitude to a positive one and realize that his destiny was his own responsibility.

The second thing Brian did was write down his goals daily.

The third thing he did was have persistence and do the uncomfortable things against hopeless odds to keep working towards his goal.

Here’s my final message: Yes, in times past, there were situations where you were screwed or severely limited from birth. Examples include being a Jew in the Holocaust, being born into slavery, being born during segregation, and being born as a woman 100+ years ago.

However, nowadays, these walls have eliminated. What if you could achieve your goals but you held back because of false assumptions or limiting beliefs? Don’t let that happen to you.

Live your life and make it as amazing as possible.

What are your thoughts on the 10,000-hour rule?

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  • Ismay

    February 26, 2018

    Hi Will,
    I can relate to many things in this post and have made changes. I have written down my goals, set realistic time frames and started a vision board. It helps me to set weekly goals to accomplish
    my dream. Just ordered the Outliers

    • Will Chou

      February 26, 2018

      Glad you enjoyed this article and have made such changes.


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