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Outliers Summary

9 min read ⌚ 

In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell answers to some of the questions that arise when one thinks of successful people:

  • Can the year when you were born to influence your success in life?
  • If you have an IQ of 130, do you have the same chance of winning a Noble prize as one with 200?
  • Does your cultural background really matter to achieve success?

And the answer to all these questions is …


An outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.

Outliers PDF

The Story of Success

How to reach the top? Our Outliers Summary will give you the hint on that one.

Be a hard-worker; practice more and more –be at the right place at the right time.

We put all critical elements in a nutshell and present it in this comprehensive book summary!

Who Should Read “Outliers”? And Why?

If you want to inform people about the essential elements of success, you should study their cultural views and understand their perspective. The whining and complaining attitude will get you nowhere.

According to Malcolm, you must take every opportunity that comes your way, because there are no mistakes only lessons.

As a book intended for everyone, it gives you simplicity and wisdom; knowledge and principles; it’s up to you.

About Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell is an English-born writer, journalist, columnist, motivator and a well-renowned speaker who currently writes for The New Yorker.

He was born on September 3, 1963, in Fareham, Hampshire in the UK. At the age of 6 Malcolm alongside his parents moved to Canada. He declared that his mother was his perfect role model for starting a career as a writer.

To this day, Malcolm Gladwell has written five books: The Tipping Point; Outliers; What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures; Blink; David & Goliath.

“Outliers PDF Summary”

The people of today are troubled with one typical notion.

What is the key to success?

Some may say talent, others probably claim hard work, so the exact formula is yet to be discovered.

The collective opinion about the ultimate success that prevails today is based on people’s belief – hard work pays off. Numerous of people are opposing this theory because lots of individuals who worked hard didn’t succeed.

So, you’ll have to find the answer to this mystery.


Perhaps, talent is necessary, but it is not the crucial element. Athletes should be gifted and able to perform things that ordinary people can’t do, but they cannot put their destiny into the hands of mysterious forces. They have to be unique in their own way.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, this theory represents a comprehensive explanation of why a small percentage of successful people can cope with both personal and professional challenges and others can’t.

If we sidestep other relevant factors of success, this traditional model can easily distort reality.

It somehow personalizes these processes which are the embodiment of our social culture.

It thus you’ll find yourself looking for talents in the wrong places. Canadian Hockey League is the perfect example.

No one can deny the fact which indicates that Canadian Hockey players are superb athletes. Their stamina and talent are at the highest level possible.

As a consequence of their fitness, many teens can easily turn professional. Giving everything you’ve got to reach the top is only one part of the story. The other half is more meaningful; it is what biologists call the “nature” of every living thing.

It is this surreal ability of some individuals to strive for great successes and move beyond their limits.

Malcolm Gladwell writing style is easy to understand, as such this book may seem like a long ride to freedom, his examples are covered and supported by facts.

These examples underline one particular point; a mix of talent and hard work is the only route to glory. The book answers questions and critics.

He does an excellent job when it comes to challenging present ideas of where and how success emerges, by introducing the audience to new standards capable of changing the course of prosperity.

Gladwell is a detail-oriented individual, a virtue that allows him to successfully govern processes leading to ultimate success, which often happens behind closed curtains – unnoticed. There many potential paths for social change and professional advancement according to Gladwell.

It is not easy to transform any person’s mindset. Nevertheless, you as a part of the whole should aspire and pursue progress. Don’t become a member of a group or an individual who overthinks everything, too many details are not helpful.

This counterproductive method is used by many; it is a painful reality that we must face openly.

Life throws at us many challenges; people obsessed with details will always feel trapped and unhappy. Such an adverse impact must not continue, so you have to move away from these adventitious roots.

Different traditions and cultures are the embodiment of how people from different countries interpret education, work habit, and dedication.

Let’s assume that you want to join the Junior Canadian Hockey League. Your goal is to become a really successful hockey player. You should also know that in Canada the eligibility cutoff for age-class is January 1st.

That means that if you turn 9 on January the 2nd, you will be playing the whole year with 8-year-old colleagues. This gives you a huge advantage over your friend that will turn 9 in December, for example.

You have one year advantage in physical strength, speed, accuracy and you will probably be seen as one of the “talented” ones.

This gives you higher chances of being selected to play in one of the bigger teams in the region. Where the story will repeat, and you will be selected to play in the Major Junior A team.

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In this case, even the month you were born has a major impact on your success. The author adds it perfectly.

Malcolm Gladwell spent the majority of his time analyzing and searching for theories which were a complete opposite of the collective societal opinion. He also criticized the U.S educational system, alluding to many weakness which the government just ignores.

“Outliers” as the name indicates is a paranormal book according to some people, although this may seem like a negative comment – it is not.

Where is the beauty of typical behavior? – We assist Gladwell in the battle against mediocracy, and you should start that fight too.

In one of Gladwell’s recent speeches, he declared that – People’s opinion about success is imposed. We lack individuals; we have a society. Hard work, ambition, struggle are not the only elements of success.  

“Outliers” has a task to clarify this mystery by introducing the readers to lots of variable measurements of professional or personal prosperity.

No one dares to admit that even the wealthy people are often depressive – so are you calling that a success?

Our culture has a tremendous impact on our behavior; we mustn’t allow getting ourselves trapped in the circle of nations. Be a person of the world – see things clearly and let Gladwell and Outliers guide you.

Outliers Summary

In football is the same. If you want to reinforce this idea, just try a Google search on your national under-19 football team. Count how many players are born in the first half of the year, and how many in the second.

You think that Bill Gates birth year didn’t have any influence on his success with Microsoft? By the time the computer revolution came around 1975, one should have been old enough to be part of it, but not too young to miss it. Ideally one should have been 20 or 21.

Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955. “Gates is the hockey player born on January 1st.”

The book is split into two parts.

The first one is called “Opportunity”. In its chapters, it describes in more detail the previously given examples and many other.

He also refers to a rule called “The 10.000-Hour Rule”. It’s the magical number that every successful person invested in achieving success. In any field, with no exception.

The chapter “The trouble with the geniuses” will answer the “Why?” to the question related to the IQ from the beginning. In order for someone to achieve success, a high IQ or practical intelligence it’s not enough.

There is something else called the “general intelligence”.

The second part is called “Legacy”. In its chapters, the author describes why our backgrounds are important and can be a prediction of one’s success.

Why coming from a Jewish family that immigrated to the USA, had a big influence on you becoming a well-known lawyer.

In “Harlan, Kentucky” you will understand why traditions and attitudes, which we inherit from our forebears, can have a huge influence on success even after 100 years.


The typical myth of Asians being better at solving math problems was also revealed. It all comes down to how they express numbers. Let’s think of a simple but revealing example.

If in English we use eleven, twelve for 11 and 12, the Chinese use a much easier system: they transform them into ten-one, ten-two.

For twenty, thirty they use two-tens, three-tens. When it comes to adding, they don’t need to make the conversion in their head from the word to a number.

They have directly the number, and therefore arithmetical computations are easier.

With this advantage, an Asian child of 4 years old can count to 40 already, while an American child can count only to 15.

Only at age 5, he will be able to count until 40, being one year behind the Asian with the basic math skills. As it was described before, with this small advantage, he will gain more.

When it comes to numbers, the Asians have a built-in advantage.

Many other interesting questions are answered by the author using this book, for example:

  • Does having an American captain and crew on a flight will reduce the risk of plane crashes than having Korean pilots?
  • Can the school summer vacation make the difference to success if you come from a wealthy family or a poor family?
  • Being a farmer at a rice paddy gives you an advantage in achieving success than a wheat farmer?

Without a doubt, the answer to all these questions should be known by now. It is Malcolm Gladwell’s “Why?” that keeps you reading and gets your attention until the last page.

It is there where he also concludes that

An outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.

Key Lessons from “Outliers”

  1.       Face violence openly, let your actions speak for itself
  2.       Anything can happen in the air
  3.       Hard work beats intelligence

Face violence openly, let your actions speak for itself

For decades, fierce family quarrels had an impact on Harlan County, Kentucky community. Many people testified that they’d witnessed bloodshed among close relatives.

The killing became a habit, so the people wanted to enforce some laws and do something about this issue that troubled them.

Facing violence openly and bravely became an integral part of Appalachian culture.

Anything can happen in the air

The environmental upbringing plays its role in a person’s behavior. It doesn’t require anyone’s authorization to influence one’s mind. The same thing goes for social influences.

The question is – How do accidents happen?

Although commercial airplanes are known for its highly advanced technology and dependable machinery which cannot burst into flames, sometimes disasters occur.

These crashes that take place from time to time are the result of the pilot’s unintentional mistakes.

Hard work beats intelligence

Knowledge represents the doorstep to success: Only a smart person is ready for the difficulties that life unfolds.

Apart from that, intelligence doesn’t have an impact on a person’s ultimate achievement as hard work does.

Like this summary? We’d Like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“Outliers Quotes”

Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good. Click To Tweet Those three things - autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. Click To Tweet It's not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It's whether or not our work fulfills us. Being a teacher is meaningful. Click To Tweet No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich. Click To Tweet I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don't work. People rise from nothing....It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't. Click To Tweet It is those who are successful who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As engaging as this book can be, Outliers has its flaws. It is interesting to witness the tackling that occurs between Gladwell and many other strong individuals who’ve tasted success without the need for his methods and techniques.

You have to remain flexible; life has its mysterious ways.

However, you should try Malcolm’s models because they are useful, interesting and fun. If you are a free individual, an open-minded person; this book will get the best out of you.

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