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Bill Wood

Dr.Gladwell: Thank you for "Outliers". One thing I question on math performance. I don't think persistance alone can do it. If a person for instance is trying to learn calculus, but has not the concepts of algebra to do the calculus, persisting will not carry the day. A basic foundation is necessary. Ifyou extrapolate this case to an individual who is mentally disadvantged, no amount of persistance will do it. Would you agree therefore that there are varying degees of mental prowess, at some point in which a person would become frustrated no matter how hard they tried? Accordingly, is there not some threshhold of ability below which one "couldn't do it". Be that so, would there not also be an upper threshhold above which it would be "easy" so that they would be "good at it"? This would support the idea of genetically endowed ability, which it would seem to be. I don't think everyboby can do math (or anything else) soley by persisting alone. Can you please lend me your thoughts? I've already read "Tipping Point". "Blink" is next, and I've already bought my copy. Thank you for your works. Please keep writing! W. Wood

John Moore

Gladwell, 'Outliers'

Friends recommend your work; it is on my list.

from your blog: " It's only nature that is unchangable and deterministic." Did I miss something? are you speaking of the nature of an individual?' Change is the only constant in Nature.
I trust the answer is in your work.

re an earlier post: China's "...self-selected risk-takers..."
I expect that future research will identify a risk-taking gene in humans. A tipping point of outliers/risk-takers is necessary for societal advancement.

I often have to be reminded of Hillary - NEVER that a sherpa led him. Newton - 'standing on the shoulders of giants'

John

Julieanne

Your thoughts are as breathtaking as a naked tree. Thank you.

David Barling

Great book.

Reading Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam about the great Michael Jordan. Playing for Keeps reinforces a lot of your points particularly the confluence of Nike and Michael Jordan.

I would also add Tiger Woods and the acceleration of his 10,000 hours including the contribution and will of his parents to your thesis.

Thanks for another great read!

Bram Wiley

Had a question about "Outliers."

On page 141-142, the Borgenicht's buy some cloth to make aprons and sell 40 of them for 10-15 cents a piece.

On page 145 they buy enough cloth to make 10 dozen aprons with their life savings, 125$.

Wondering where the disconnect is, because that should only net them at most 18$ (120 x .15$). Not to mention cost much less than 125$.

Thanks for the book, a great read so far!

Bram Wiley

My apologies, that should have been a net loss of 107$, not a net of 18$. In regards to my post above.

Thanks!

Mike Carter

Three books, three great reads!!
I had been waiting for Outliers for Christmas (I sent my mom a link regarding Outliers about a month before, letting her know I found my Christmas present from her) and have not been disappointed. I finished page 285 all but 2 minutes ago and felt the need to offer my thanks and support.
Thanks again for another interesting and thought provoking read and I look forward to your future works.

Benjamin Ortega

I'm not a huge sports fan but after reading your book, this made sense: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-apdefensiveplayer&prov=ap&type=lgns

Thanks for great insight in how history, chance, and opportunities can ultimately lead to being "successful".

Ben

João Pedro

Hi, i'm a brazilian person and i read your book ( outliers ) I liked so much... The type of the informations are completly direct and correct ! I wanna know more about your work ( if possible ) !

Congratulations ...

And Thank you to add more informations to my life

Ben Hill

David Brooks' article reveals more about his personal politics than it says about his understanding of the ideas presented in "Outliers". Contrary to what Brooks implies, "Outliers" clearly demonstrates that social context actually facilitates the extraordinary work ethic and discipline that Brooks- and the rest of us- value and recognize as one of the characteristics of extraordinary achievers.

Lester

People yearn for control, and thus react negatively to external determinants of success.

My read of 'outliers' isn't the the locus of success is external, but rather that we as individuals need to assess context before we measure success.

RonaldThurlow

Hello
I have read all three of Mr. Gladwell's books which I find fascinating. There are two books Mr. Gladwell and anyone else who has read his works may want to read. They are "The Soul's Code" & "The force of Character" written by James Hillman who is an Archetypal Psychologist. These books will help to round out the premises of Mr. Gladwell's three books without being preachy or suggesting they have all of the answers. This is in no way suggesting that Mr. Gladwell expresses the thought that he has all of the answers. Thank you in advance to anyone who takes the time to explore these works. Feel free to contact me at this email address if you find them interesting or useless. Either way your opinion is welcome.

Ronald Thurlow
hawaiichess@hotmail.com

Harikumar Mahadeva Iyer

Dear Mr.Gladwell
I come from India. As Rahul Dash, in one the comments, has pointed out, India is one of the most mysterious countries in the world. I am not sure whether you have come to India. But the moment you step in you will be amazed to see how people survive so precariously. You will be forced to believe in God for you can see that any minute you may come across an unforeseen challenge. But rest assured there is that golden hand of God that protects you from danger most of the times, not always. People believe in God blindly and deeply. Even the most dreaded criminal and financial crooks do it in the name of God. People are drawing power from their belief to do all the right thing and wrong things. Most of the people are blissfully unaware that they are doing wrong things. Unfortunately grossly outweigh the right and the out come is poverty, illiteracy, corruption, mal nutrition etc. A massive transformation is needed in India with out disrupting the faith in God, for faith is a great virtue and if harnessed properly can bring dramatic results. Your own story gives in Outliers gives us lot of hope that we can bringing this transformation. Tipping point gives us valuable tips on how to engineer a social transformation on a large scale. I have come up with a concrete idea to translate your concepts into action for a positive transformation in India. This will be a great opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your ideas. Looking forward to your positive response for a collaborative effort to transform lives of 600 millions of people who are living in abject poverty.
harikumar.mecheri@gmail.com

joana johnson

It's too bad Brooks did not catch the most inspiring portion of your book. My favorite thought in your book is that most people really want an opportunity to work hard. And that is where we all can make a difference in the world. We can each seek to find opportunities to put in our 10,000 hours and position our children to have opportunities to also work hard and lead fulfulling lives. We can help our children be lucky...

joana johnson

I read a short biographical article on Chesley Sullenberger and realized, he's put in his 10,000 hours and so became the "right man at the right time," to lead such a succesful conclusion to a possible catastrophe.

Bob Broseker

I just went to the web site of 7 National Hockey League teams. I don't see anything close to the birth date pattern proposed by Mr. Gladwell. I wonder if Mr. Gladwell found an anomoly that fit a description of the end result he was looking for. One would think the pattern from Canadian Junior League Hockey would also be apparent in the NHL. I will do further research, but right now I don't see the pattern.

Becky Bard

Following the miraculous crash landing of the USAir flight into the Hudson River, I realized that Captain "Sully" was the perfect example of an outlier -- more than 10,000 hours of flying, an experience glider pilot, the brains behind an airline safety business, and a cool, calm demeanor. Serendipity was at play, but it was all Sully that made what could have been disastrous into something miraculous.

Alec Geno

This talk of Nature and Nurture also brings up a similar theme which I have been mulling over for several weeks. The Matthew Effect really just punched me in the face, so to speak. I've written a connection between the Matthew Effect and predestination on my blog here: http://allocatedacumen.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/outliers-of-the-religious-world/

Phil

Although Outliers was an enjoyable read, I take issue with the most basic premise of the book. The premise is that "success", as Gladwell sees it, is almost entirely defined by the amount of wealth one accumulates. I suppose in a desire to appeal to the broadest possible audience, Gladwell fails to provide examples or challenge any of the most traditional benchmarks of success.

The most striking example is the contrast made between Oppenheimer, the creator of the Atomic Bomb, and another high IQ, but less well known, scientist. Gladwell argues that the distinguishing factor is that made Oppenheimer such a success is that he had the social skills to manage his way through the "system," while less successful geniuses do not. My question is whether Oppenheimer's is a good example of success? Perhaps Oppenheimer was willing to sacrifice all principle to advance his career. He did build the atomic bomb for goodness sake!

The basic assumption underlying all of this is that anyone who sacrifices career advancement for any larger principle is not a success. You must work within the system to be a success like Bill Gates, the Beatles, Hockey Players, or The Bomb builder.

Why are there no outliers in the ranks of Dr. King, Ghandi, or even someone like Ralph Nader. Certainly these are all outliers, but they do not comport with Gladwell's theory that all successful geniuses must work within the system or that success is largely defined by the size of your bank account.

None of this is to say I did not really enjoy reading the book and found much of it fascinating. Perhaps it would be too much to take on these sorts of social questions on top of all the other assumptions the book breaks down.

Phil

Don't really have much to say about Brooks' review, except that I'm tired of this inane "nature vs. nurture" debate. These may be valid concepts that help us understand development, but ultimately they are not two actual separate and autonomous forces that we can speak of in the way that people do in such debates. Like everything else, they overlap and interweave and cannot be separate from one another and argued one against the other in a battle for supremacy. In the end, they exist more as concepts than realities. Taken to literal extremes this debate becomes complete nonsense. Might as well conduct a census of how many Sasquatch reside in British Columbia (after all, we already know there are 52). How can nurturing styles be considered outside of nature? How can we possibly speak of "nature" as if it doesn't include the parents in a species nurturing its young? I really don't know what the hell people are talking about when they start bitching about "nature vs. nurture." What I DO want to say is how happy I am that Outliers was written. I have been frustrated by the exact same sort of thinking that inspired this book – namely, this constant harping on individualism and hard work and pulling one’s self up by one’s own bootstraps and so on as the chief cause of any and all success in life. Read any interview with almost any successful person in any field and eventually they get around to saying something like, “My parents were very supportive” or “Well, I grew up in a musical family…” and the ever-popular “My parents encouraged us to engage in spirited debates at the dinner table.” Also, it’s simply amazing how many successful people in many fields had one or two parents who just happened to be school teacher. What parents do for a living is often very important. Often, it's some combination like, "Well, my dad was a lawyer and my mom was a ballerina," or "Father was a college professor and mother was an author" or "Daddy was President of the United States and mommy was an heiress," or whatever. These are exaggerations, but not too far off the mark. And the number of successes that sprang up out of secure middle class to upper class background dwarfs the number of successes that have arisen from the lower classes. A simple whim can lead a person with a positive, encouraging, opportunity filled background to the heights of success while those at the lower rungs must fight and struggle like someone possessed to find even the most modest of success, at least in material terms. People basically follow the "path of least resistance." Not many people who grew up wealthy or even middle class end up in the gutter, unless they become addicted to drugs or the stock market crashes, and poor people do not regularly end up rich, as a rule. Young adults are not thrown into the wilderness to fend for themselves when they turn 18, if your parents are wealthy chances are excellent that you will attend a very good college and not have to worry about tuition and when you fail in life there are people to turn to who can prop you back up with little effort. However, if you grow up poor, well, good luck, because you are going to need it! That alone says a lot. One thing I truly hate is that when these facts are brought up, people often respond by pointing to one of those rare exceptions who made it up out of the slums and became successful, pointing out how they made it through hard work and determination, as if this explains everything. Sure, the poor made it through hard work & determination, because they had nothing else! Ultimately, the vast majority of successful people are those who had all (or almost all) the breaks. Quite often, the successful speak of someone who served as a "mentor" in their lives. One thing I have noticed in the lives of the successful (from decades of reading interviews with them, trying to find the magic key to success for myself) is what I call “the moment of realization.” Time and time again, successful types mention experiences, usually in their childhood, from the age of about 7 or 8 to 13 years, when their chosen path in life first occurred to them. It’s no surprise that this age range is one of the most influential periods of human development – old enough to have begun developing a genuine consciousness but young enough to have immensely formative experiences - too much older than this and it takes things like tragedy and war to totally re-form someone’s personality and worldview. Generally, it’s when they witnessed someone else doing the very thing that they would later become known for and realized, in effect, “Hey, that person is doing that thing and it not only looks fun but other people are responding to them and it’s actually a real job, like fireman or policemen, a job that people grow up to do!” Right then and there, they decide that this “job” is what they want to do and over the course of years they retain this vision, elaborate upon it, and gradually become more and more involved in it until they essentially acquire that magical ten-thousand hours of experience spoken of in Outliers. If you want to encourage some sort of success in young people, or at least future career satisfaction and a sense of purpose, then figure out ways to encourage them to have just this sort of realization experience. Expose them to a variety of careers, allow them to actually witness people doing all kinds of things, watch closely for their natural proclivities and encourage them in those directions as much as possible, TALK to them and discuss what people do and how things really happen in the world. By all means, do NOT just allow them to develop on their own. This is probably the thing I was most struck about in Outliers – namely, how it nailed the real difference growing up in the lower classes and growing up in the upper classes. I know, because I grew up like the poorer kids that are mentioned in Outliers. Not that we were poor, exactly, but my mother was a disgruntled housewife and my father a factory worker who only went to work when he felt like it and spent most of his time partying and dealing dope. I won’t bore anyone with my own situation, but it just never occurred to me that anything else, anything more, was ever possible, at least not in any real way, and that is the big difference. Jobs and careers were things like factory worker, janitor, mailman, and thief, everything else was a bizarre fantasy world that had no connection with my reality, and I was probably just too stupid and confused to ever figure things out on my own. As long as we continue to allow kids to just develop in their own ways without any real and effective guidance and opportunity then those people who DO succeed will only be those who lucked out with the right combination of fortuitous elements and those few who are blessed (poor choice of words, I think) with a ravenous fighting spirit. Those who worship the individual (and I don’t totally discount this position) will always twist the facts of biography to make it seem as if everything happens through Herculean effort of the individual with only the slightest of interference from culture, class, upbringing, and the many seemingly insignificant details of life (like birth date), but all this does is force us to conclude that anyone who is NOT successful must be lazy or defective. To me, this is not much different from championing eugenics and social Darwinism. Anyway, Outliers is great and I am very happy that it exists. I wish everyone in education and government was required to read it

Sara Blessing

Love your books and articles-But am discouraged on one point....

You are such a skilled writer and it's wonderful to watch how deftly you combine separately acknowledged facts into connected whole ideas and theories. I love how you did this in The Outliers through the lens of culture and class and race, but here's the one thing-what about gender? It seems that the majority of (extreme) success stories in the book, if not all, were men. It matters when you were born, where you born, and who you were born to, but I argue that for the majority of women through the centuries it REALLY matters if you were also born with the seeming "success disadvantage" of being born female.

For example, the women (mothers) who financed the computer lab for the 8th grade Bill Gates likely did not have the opportunity to spend 10,000 hours with laser like concentration on any one skill-other than the task of being a mother. Women being burdened with children and domestic duties-traditionally-have so much more to overcome in this realm in order to achieve the levels of success men have in the book.

Even if women in the past decided to forego the life of a wife/mother it seems they were still at a distinct disadvantage both financially and professionally being relegated to jobs and careers that women were deemed appropriate for.

The jobs where women have traditionally been able to spend thousands of hours-administrative support, teaching, nursing (caring/helping) professions-they have perhaps become incredibly skilled but not hugely successful (as defined in the book).

Again, I think you are AMAZING but wonder why the gender analysis was missing from the book.
I am in law school and I am struggling with these ideas of success right now-on the cusp of a career and also wanting to become a mother-both of which will take significant amounts of time and effort from the other.

Best,
Sara Blessing


Bret

Mr. Gladwell,

Enjoyed all of your books so far. I made a DIY style YouTube video in the style of "The Colbert Report", called The Laundry Room Business Network and had Malcolm Gladwell themed episode:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rC4aAl63X4
Hope the dry humor translates.

santosh shiva

Just completed reading Outliers. First off, great framework of view on success . As someone from India, our culture is rooted on humility, and reading your book answers why so many wise men have espoused humility and egolessness. It puts in perspective that our individual success is a sum of past actions by people before us. Great book!

Daniel Grossberg

Please update the "Bio" portion to state that you are the author of three, not two, books.

Phil

Mr. Gladwell,

Loved the book. Well written.

My question is why do you use such a traditional definition of success?

You use the man who invented the atomic bomb, corporate take over attorneys, etc. Yes they are successful, but they are successful at highly destructive things. So I ask, is that success?

On the other hand you provide no examples of people who were successful at achieving social progress such as Marin Luther King or Ghandi.

You even discuss how Oppenheimer was more effective at working his way through the system, but what does this tell us. He was willing to narrowly succeed without consider the larger consequences of his actions. Anyone with a conscience would have hesitated, but you seem to see conscience as an impediment to success.

Your traditional definition of success, defined as amassing enormous wealth or status at all costs, creates the impression that this is Success in America. I disagree.

Otherwise, really enjoyed the read. Thanks.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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