Think you know what it takes to be successful? 5 lessons from Outliers

Outliers is the third Malcolm Gladwell book, following best sellers The Tipping Point and Blink. In Outliers, Gladwell investigates the real reasons for success. It challenges everything you thought you knew about the best and brightest.  

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Gladwell has an amazing knack for finding unique case studies to explain complex phenomenon, and I thoroughly recommend his books to anyone interested in how the world really works. In the CNN interview below, Gladwell highlights some of the key insights from the book.


My personal big 5 learnings from reading Outliers were as follows:

  1. According to the 10,000 hour rule, to be considered a master of any discipline, you need to have a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice under your belt. There is no secret to it, to be the best you just have to work the hardest.
  2. IQ doesn’t really matter, you just have to be ‘smart enough’. The brightest people don’t necessarily make it to the top. The people who work the hardest, think outside the box, and can influence others, are the ones who make it.
  3. When and where you are born matters. To make it to the top you need to have been in the right place, at the right age, at the right time. Basically there is a big element of luck. In other words, if you make it to the top, be humble!
  4. Your heritage matters. If your parents were hard workers, you are more likely to have a great work ethic as well. Thanks Mum and Dad!
  5. Avoid flying with any national airline that has a high Power Distance Index. If the Co-Pilot respects authority too much to speak up when their Captain is doing something wrong, your plane is more likely to fall out of the sky. Same thing goes in business, SPEAK UP!

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2 Comments on “Think you know what it takes to be successful? 5 lessons from Outliers”

  1. June 16, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    I too found this book fascinating, but I don’t fully agree with his high reliance on chance. Though chance is certainly important, I believe that we often make our own opportunities. If we are open to input, observant of things around us, and feel truly greatful for the gifts we have, we open ourselves up to all the great things around us. This significantly increases the “chance” that we will be successful.

  2. chrismaloney
    June 16, 2009 at 8:08 am #

    Cheers Michael. I like your line of thinking! Personally, I think it is the chances we take, rather then the chances we are given, that help determine success.

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