Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 9780316017923

Related: Blink, Thinking, Fast & Slow


Gladwell posits that much of the success we see in the world is a result of our opportunities and history.

He links together a wide variety of topics, from why southerners get angry faster than northerners (in the US), to why Korean pilots suffered more crashes in the 1990s, and why Asians are better at math.

The key points can be summarized quickly, but it’s an entertaining and easy read.


  • Cumulative advantages are present all over the place, from sports to math.
  • Athletes born in January have an advantage over those born late in the year for sports.
  • Math students in Asia have much longer school years than Americans.
  • Kids from wealthy families learn much more over the summer than children from poorer families.
  • Skewed age distributions exist whenever three things happen: selection, streaming & differentiated experience.
  • You make a decision about who is good and who isn’t at an early age.
  • You separate “talented” from “untalented” at an early age.
  • You give “talented” a superior experience.
  • Talent is overrated, effort is underrated:
  • Once you have a minimum amount of talent required to master a skill (like music), your success depends on effort.
  • In other words, there are no naturals.
  • The magic number for true expertise appears to be 10,000 hours.
  • Success does not correlate with IQ.
  • “Practical intelligence” is very important as well.
  • This can be developed through parenting, team sports, etc.
  • This is the reason we see wealthier kids developing these skills more.  
  • This is often what we refer to when we talk about “class advantage”.
  • Work must have three qualities to be satisfying: autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward.
  • Proficiency at math can be measured simply by looking at which cultures place the highest emphasis on effort and hard work.
  • Like many skills, mastering math is simply a matter of being willing to try hard enough for long enough.

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