Book notes: Outliers


It is a common belief, the most successful people rise to the top because of their own hard work, grit, and determination. While this is true to a degree, Malcom Gladwell details in his book Outliers, there is much more to their stories then individual determination. By digging deeper into each success story, patterns of opportunity begin to emerge. These subtle advantages help to propel the lucky few in ways others, with equivalent ability, are not. Gladwell discusses in detail on the affects of long hours of practice, family culture, access to resources, and birth year to explain why certain people accomplish great feats while others do not.

By taking advantage of these findings, we can begin to reshape the way we cultivate and educate our youth. Providing specific opportunities to a larger group instead of the lucky few.

No one is successful in a bubble, each story is built on the backs of large communities of support. If you are in a position to help, seize the opportunity to give back to our future generations.

My Notes

Note 1: My notes are brain dumps while I am reading. Entered on whatever device was available at the time. They are not complete sentences, contain grammar and spelling errors, and may not make sense to anyone but me.

Note 2: I figured out 1/2 way through that dictating notes into my phone was easier then writing them, sometimes dictation goes horribly wrong.

Chapter 1 (time practice advantage)

  • 10000 hours to become obtain mastery level

Chapter 2 (year born advantage)

  • Don’t be stuck in the now. Keep think towards the future. People working at IBM didn’t see the personal computer as a viable product that would soon take over their market.
  • I don’t want age holding me back
  • Many people were given a special opportunity and seized it. 1830,s was the perfect decade for the industrial revolution. The 1950s was the perfect decade for the tech revolution. Gates jobs Schmidt bill joy mcneely

Chapter 3

  • Look into raven IQ test? Could I solve the puzzles?
  • You need to be good enough to be great. IQ has a threshold. 120 to 200 IQ is good enough to be great.
  • This also applies to grades ACT and IQ what the University of Michigan found was it’s affirmative action program which allowed people with less IQ less favorable grades ultimately when they went into the real job world were just as successful as the other non-minority people who had better grades than them this means that AC tease and IQ at a certain threshold or not a determining factor of success the better they are once you’re beyond that certain threshold
  • There is a threshold to be considered smart enough once you cross 120, there is little advantage. Similar to the difference in height between 6'5 vs 6'7
  • Convergent vs divergent tests
  • Creativity in s just as important as IQ

Chapter 4

  • Need practical intelligence to along with analytical
  • Practical for s how to read and respond to a situation. Or otherwise get what you want for f needed
  • Social skills are leaened
  • Analytic and IQ is generic
  • Children whose parents cultivate their time by sending them to practices scheduling them in many different events signing them up for many different experiences like music theater sporting events make their children entitled. But in this case in titled in a good sense children are entitled once they’re in their adult ages to go out and look for opportunities to put themselves in front of situations that they would not help before that entitlement as a child gives them the ability to use that skill to go out and make something of themselves to put themselves front first and forward. Entitlement in this case is not bad
  • Non entitled children are not prepared to interact with adults or people in authority
  • Learn to assert themselves.
  • Concerted cultivation
  • These skills are necessary to succeeding in the modern world
  • Family background, education, and family involvement is critically important to raise entitled children. A community around them to properly prepare them.
  • No one makes it alone

Chapter 5

  • Rags to riches by pure independence does not easily exist. There is always some more and someone else behind the scenes. What were the underlying opportunities given to cultivate their greatness?
  • Examples
    • Being Jewish : was not good for law firms at the time of the n 1960s
      • Where you fail in getting in because of race, is to be used as fuel to pivot and rethink a new direction.
      • Find opportunity in the obscure out of adversity
    • Demographic lock
      • The time when you are born may impact opportunity. For example in the era of the depression
      • Is living during the 2020 pandemic going to be the same demographic problem?
      • The time you grow and try to start a career in matters.
    • Meaningful work
      • Autonomy
      • Complexity
      • Reward
      • Meaningful, fulfilling work
      • Money is not the primary motivation in a career
      • Children are inspired by parents hard work and success. Good mentoring
      • Children do better then parents s
      • Success creates success
      • Start small work hard learn to be assertive and prosper
      • Working hard means working very hard. Late nights long hours. Is this worth it?
      • Success is not a random act
      • Family and culture pass along the foundation for success
  • Litigation is done in court room. Lawyers of the time in prestigious firms was in the board room

Chapter 6

  • Culture of honor
  • May need to look at events from broad perspective to see patterns
  • Immigrants reproduced culture of honor in remote areas of America which set that culture
  • Helps explain patters of crime in south and culture of family honor
  • Cultural honor goes back many generations. It is ingrained and difficult to change
  • This honor instills a sense of irrational behavior such as anger or projected anger on others. Does this explain the support of trump? Are trump supporters family generations from the south ?
  • Even after many generations past this family ethos is still strong.
  • Is my fathers southern upbringing part of the reason I am distant?

Chapter 7

  • Culture needs to be change to fix deep complex problems
  • Teamwork and communication errors may lead to compound errors and cause failures
  • The leader needs to be a good delegator and clear communicator in difficult time or crisis situations
  • Be clear when communicating. State important items clearly and early
  • Subordinates need to be comfortable challenging higher rank individuals when the job requires deep thinking and complex decisions. Ie work that is pure process.
  • Be assertive when needed.
  • The senior person need to make the subordinate comfortable.
  • Be assertive “we DONT have the fuel”
  • Power distance index: less power people challenging more powerful
  • Need to be assertive. Need to advocate for your position
  • Distance in pdi yields less assertiveness
  • Converting Korean pulpit from speaking native langauage to English gave them an alternative identity which allow for new social norms and a reset of the implied PDI distance between air traffic controllers and pilots and co pilots. Allowing them to be more assertive.
  • There are no strict social class hierarchy within the English language as there are not n the Korean language.
  • Changing the language class and culture low hierarchical class people are easily able to become senior workers

Chapter 8

  • Different languages take different amounts of time to say their letters.
  • Humans have about a 2 second window where something said can easily be remembered and then repeated
  • Langauages with shorter to speaker letters are easier to memorize more complex number strings
  • Is this why I prefer to cut even seconds off of inefficient computer processes?
  • Asian counting language and system are easier
  • The linguistic structure crier of may h in the English language of s clumsy and complicated. This setting English speaking young children back years of f the Asian counterparts
  • Working a 3000 hour a year rice patty is considered meaningful work because is is very complicated and intricate
  • No one who rises before dawn 360 days a year fails to make their family rich
  • Massive success requires hard work long hours
  • Practice takes a lot of time I until the “that means something to me now” moment. You CANT give up until there is an understanding
  • You can’t let the little details pass by without understanding
  • MUST have the moment of clear understanding during as much practice as required to gain the understanding
  • Must put in the time and have the grit to maintain the practice
  • Must be persistent
  • Look into Timms exam
  • Need to be able to sit still and focus

Chapter 9

  • Jarvis. Overstudy leads to insanity?
  • Kip school high marks in math.
  • Rest allows for self reflection
  • Summer break is where kids fall behind
  • Wealthy kids Learn over the summer
  • Poor kids fall behind in the summer
  • Parents are more engaged in the summer for the wealthy kids and take an active enrollment in their lives poor kids do not get that same level of attention from their parents over the summer
  • Study found that poor kids actually were on par or slightly above their learning ability during the school year from September to June but it’s over the summer time is when those same poor kids start to fall behind and the wealthier kids move ahead significantly
  • Students and Asian schools which typically do better in math do not have the long summer breaks like the American schools do
  • Which of these chapters keeps building on a central theme and that central theme is hard work and practice is what makes you better in this example American schools go on average of 180 days were Asian schools are in excess of 250 days a year that more higher level of practice such time ahead
  • The Kipp schools are solving this problem by eliminating the long summer vacations and adding more school time to the school year
  • The Kip schools spend on average 50% more time learning than the average American public school
  • The kips schools do homework at a slower pace they allow students to take as much time as they need at the front of the board to work through a math problem with the class together as opposed to how it’s typically done where the first student who answers wins and therefore they believe that they are the ones who just know the material
  • Children in the kips school have a sense of responsibility as opposed to having more time to run and play and I have time with her friends.
  • So my question is when it’s found that the upper middle class kids do well over summer break because their parents are educating them is the kips school necessary is it beneficial over having upper middle class kids to go on vacations and read books over the summer and have engaged parents
  • Success is directly correlated with your opportunities the opportunity to practice the opportunity to have the facilities necessary to practice the opportunity to have parents willing to put the time into it the opportunity to have a school like Kip the opportunity to have the materials and the resources necessary to practice and the opportunity again to have parents who are encouraging and pushing and keeping their children into these opportunities


  • Cultural legacy is another large factor in the success
  • Outliers are not outliers because of pure chance as can be seen in this book outliers were given an opportunity and it was seized upon. Some of this is of course luck there’s many people because of their race because of the time that they were born because of their wealthy status they were given opportunities that were not afforded to other people. In this book should be used as a teaching opportunity so that we can adjust our classes understand the opportunities that made successful people successful and try to re-implement those in a way that more fairly balances it out for more people
  • It’s about the power of community community is what provides the opportunities for these people success. Not one of these most successful people have done it on their own or completely under their own power they have a community to surround them and offer them every opportunity necessary for them to be successful
  • Culture handed down from our previous generations is very influential in the success that we will have in the future
  • The idea that someone made it to the top become very successful deserves fast amount of riches should that be restocked was it that person that truly made it to the top or was it their culture there opportunities the community have provided for them the teachers the schools the public education systems the roads to get you to the schools all the core foundations that gave these people the opportunity should that wealth not be shared with everyone it was not that person that made it by themselves to become successful again as this book states it’s the opportunities afforded by all of the systems put in place which that person got to take it vantage of that made them successful they were not successful on the road. Clearly their grit their determination and their willpower help them to be successful with the systems in place gave them the opportunities to see is that correct and that will power to become successful
  • As in Malcolm Gladwell‘s case surrounding himself by intellectual people is one of the opportunities presented to him that helped shape who he is today. Having good friends push mentor encourage is incredibly important in the shaping of children from a young age. You must pick good friends.


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2020-11-28 10:52 -0600