The Story of Success

Book - 2008
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The best-selling author of Blink identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers, in a resource that covers such topics as the secrets of software billionaires, why certain cultures are associated with better academic performance, and why the Beatles earned their fame.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780316017923
Branch Call Number: 302 Gladwell
Characteristics: ix, 309 p. :,ill. ;,21 cm.


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The best-selling author of Blink identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers, in a resource that covers such topics as the secrets of software billionaires, why certain cultures are associated with ... Read More »

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JCLBetM Aug 06, 2019

listed in VentureBeat.com's "top 25 technology books of all time"

JCLHelenH Feb 06, 2011


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Aug 28, 2019

Entertaining, but really uneven... The book is divided into two main parts. The first one is called Opportunity and is focused on explaining the success of individual outliers. The second part called Legacy is focused on the success or failure of various cultures.

While the first part, Opportunity, is more entertaining, it is the weaker of the two. Gladwell makes such an effort to explain out the outliers as to render them entirely mainstream that he forgets that they are outliers. He explains so much by what year they were born. To quote him: “For a young would be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for software programmer, or being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.” His logic is that about 20 to 30 years after those respective dates hostile merger and acquisition became prevalent on Wall Street, the computer revolution took off, and the industrial revolution in the U.S. really got going, respectively. Thus, in his views outliers are no more than a product of their time. However, this argument does not look at the other side. For instance, Bill Gates was not just a product of the computer revolution. He was a key individual that actually created the computer revolution. Without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and very few others, there was no computer revolution. This same logic can be advanced with the key entrepreneurs during the industrial revolution or lawyers during the wave of hostile takeovers. These individuals just like Bill Gates were not just passive agent surfing the wave of their respective time. They were the respective storms that created the waves.

To add further relativism to the determinism of year of birth, during the mid 1930s, 15 million were born (that makes for a lot of potential lawyers). Between 1953 and 1956, over 16 million were born. That makes for a bunch of prospective computer geeks. In other words, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were still one in a million individual (actually one in several millions).

The second part on Legacy is on far stronger ground. Two chapters really stand out. One of them explains why South Korean Airline had the worst record in plane crash because of a cultural respect for authority (the captain reigns supreme and can’t be corrected even if he is exhausted and ready to fly a plane into a mountain). The other chapter explains the Asian cultural superiority in k-12 achievement in mathematics (a superior language structure to understand math operation logically; a 240 day school year vs. 180 in the US; and a culture of grit and perseverance).


Malcom Gladwell pens a really fascinating non-fiction book that examines what factors contribute to an individual’s success. While I had originally believed that success comes from only a person’s work ethic, I soon realized how multi-faceted achievement truly is. He makes some really strong arguments and his observations are incredibly insightful and informative. I think that the way in which I looked at successful versus struggling individuals changed drastically from the book. I have to recommend this book to others as it was interesting and eye-opening. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Aug 07, 2019

The audiobook is read by the author, who reads it quite well, if a bit too slow (I listened on a Playaway device and could increase the speed slightly).
The work itself is terrific, especially how cultural legacies create the inequalities that matter and that current policies do not address them.
Its sad about the culture into which this book was released is one that can have it produced, but that also it just gets praised and, well, ignored, or at least not acted upon.

Feb 11, 2019

This book gives you a golden opportunity to expand your world view, knowledge and outlook on success. Learning that success is truly, by fact, a mixture of luck, circumstance and hard work can be a relief. We learn that some things like what day you were born or what religion you are is out of your control, but you can always put in 1000 hours of practice into what you love, after all practice makes perfect. I would give this book a 5/5. I loved it. It was well researched, and the information was well presented. You never get bored and always finish a chapter wanting to dive in deeper; not that we would expect anything less form Gladwell.
@Pandora of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Dec 28, 2018

This book offers great insights to *hidden* factors behind success. It shows very well how arbitrary decisions while designing some rules lead to an advantage bias for some subset of people. I highly recommend this book.

Going into this book with an uninterested mindset, I was quickly convinced otherwise. This book ended up to be a pleasant, captivating surprise after finishing the first few chapters. Beginning with the concept of opportunity, Malcolm Gladwell finishes off with cultural legacies in this two-part book. From explaining the success of The Beatles to finding out why Asians are good at math, the author covers a variety of topics to explain the phenomenal lives of outliers. I enjoyed reading this book, for it provides a great deal of information in a riveting manner. I would recommend this book to young adults. I believe that they would enjoy and relate to this book.

Aug 22, 2018

I approached this book after greatly enjoyed Gladwell's "Revisionists History" podcast. He writes very similarly to the way he speaks. Outliers answers the questions I didn't know I have about social perception and factors of success. Gladwell keeps the book from drying by using a variety of stories which makes my baby-steps into non-fiction a lot more enjoyable.

DBRL_LyndseyR Apr 20, 2018

After watching a Ted Talk by Malcolm Gladwell several years ago, I’ve been wanting to read "Outliers". I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did! Our idea of successful people is so focused on the individual’s natural talents, that we never consider where they come from or how opportunity and luck play a role. Gladwell uses everything from professional hockey players to billionaire's to challenge the way we view success. There is no doubt that I will be referencing this book for years to come.

Jan 16, 2018

This is one of the few books I've read that I remember.
I've told many people about this.

Dec 05, 2017

This was a really great book.

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Oct 17, 2018

"... the Beatles didn't recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a night, seven days a week [for early gigs in Germany]. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you [successful] ...". (p. 150)

Dec 15, 2011

To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.

Nov 05, 2009

... and no one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses - ever makes it alone.


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Aug 16, 2018

hawkinsc thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Oct 17, 2018

"... We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally [into existence] ... But that's the wrong lesson. ... To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success ... with a society that provides opportunities for all. ... The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all." (p. 268, 285)


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