Quick Summary: In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author tries to convince the readers that there’s nothing called a self-made man. People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves.

But in fact, they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities, and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.

What is an Outlier according to Gladwell?

Outlier according to Malcolm Gladwell is his very unique take on success. It refutes the popular belief of a self-made man. The book debunks the myths and provides the reader with hard proof that there is nothing known as self-made. Malcolm provides some really interesting statistics and data to counter the popular belief. 

Outliers: The success Story By Malcolm Gladwell Book Summary and Review

The Book outlines that success is a mixture of various factors like lucky events, rare opportunities, attitude towards life, and various other factors that are not really visible to all. 

Historical Data drive the content of the book, the author uses these data to explain his side of the story. 

If you are among those people who held the popular belief that if you work your ass off then success is in your own hands, then this book will wrong you. Malcolm in his book The Outliers argues the exact opposite.

He argues that the success you have achieved if looked closely and all the dots are connected, then you will see it’s because various different things happened together to help you succeed.

Some of the reasons for your success might also be the community you were born in, the month of your birth, your family background, family’s financial situation. One of the quote from the book reads, 

“Who we’re cannot be separated from where we are from”

If you have heard about the 10,000-hour rule then you might be happy to hear that the rule has originated from this book. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was the first book to coin that rule. 

A very different approach to success is something that really attracted me to this book. Malcolm Gladwell is quite famous with his other books like Blink, The tipping point, talking to strangers, etc.

Outliers in a graph, are those points that are different from the cluster. These data points are separate from the cluster of other data points and they become an interesting topic to study. If these outliers are studied you will understand what makes them stand out from the crowd.

Chapters in Outliers

  • Introduction: The Roseto Mystery
  • The Matthew effect
  • The 10000-hour rule
  • The trouble with geniuses
  • The trouble with geniuses part 2
  • The three lessons of Joe Flom
  • Harlan Kentucky
  • The Ethnic Theory of plane crashes
  • Rice paddies and math tests
  • Marita’s Bargain
  • The Jamaican Story

The book is divided into 2 parts the first part is The Opportunity and the second Legacy. The chapters that come under Opportunity tell us about the various studies and experiments done on successful people and trying to find out the recipe for success.

The second part of the book explains the legacy of things. How some people of some background are prone to be in that spot. These are basically like a family inheritance. Here in this part, the author has taken case studies from plane crashes to his own family.

I found the second part of the book rather boring as compared to the first part. The second part is more like a motivational piece and things that are out of our hands.

But the chapters in the first part of the book are rather driven by Data and Research. Here you will find some really amazing insights about various people who are successful in their own field and what made them successful. Was it luck, hard work, coincidence, or just timing?

The Matthew effect

Outliers by malcolm gladwell book summary

 The Matthew effect is the first chapter in this book and is based on “Opportunity”. The chapter talks about Canadian Hockey, which is one of the famous sport in Canada. Here Malcolm has used the example of Canadian hockey but the same is for all the sports around the world.

Thousands of Canadian boys begin to play the sport at the “novice” level before they are even in kindergarten. From that point on there are leagues for every age class, and each of those levels, the players are shifted and sorted and evaluated, with the most talented separated out and groomed for the next level.

Once you are selected and make your way through all the other competitors, you will get a chance to play in the major league. It does not depend if you have high contacts with famous parents. The selection is done purely based on individual merit.

But here the author questions, is it really the hard work of these players that bought them here? Or is there a separate element that’s common between them? What is that secret element?

Then Gladwell goes through an interesting story, Will keep the story part out of this review. Here he displays the list of all the players drafted for the teams to play in the league. The list gives various data like age, position, weight, height, birth date, and hometown.

If you look closely you will find something odd in this data. Almost 80% of the players were born between Jan to May. And this is not just from one team rooster, but later on analysis, it was found that 80% of the players drafted to play in the league are born in the months between Jan to May.

Now, why is this so? That’s because the annual cutoff date for youth teams is January 1st, meaning kids born in December have to compete with their friends who are almost a year older than they are. When you’re 7 years old, you stand no chance against an 8-year-old in terms of strength and speed.

Relative age matters, especially when you’re young. The growth is fast at this age and the player has the advantage over the one who is younger here.

The relative age may not play a big role after a certain saturation point. A point after which the improvement graph is linear. But it matters greatly at the beginning, it gives a big headstart to all the people with the relative age advantage.

The 10000 Hour rule

Outliers by malcolm gladwell book summary

The 10,000 Hour rule is one of the most famous practice popularized by the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The rule cites the research done by Ericsson that focused on violin students at a music academy in Berlin. 

The study found that the most accomplished of the students had put in 10,000 hours by the time they turned 20. Gladwell also estimates that the Beatles put in 10,000 hours of practice playing in Hamburg in the early 1960s and that Bill Gates put in 10,000 hours of programming work before founding Microsoft. Hence the 10,000-hour rule was born: put in 10,000 hours of practice, and you become an expert in a given field. 

Though the study never mentioned 10,000 as the number Gladwell rounded it off to 10,000 so it becomes more catchy. Today but there are many pieces of research and studies that prove the study otherwise

Keeping all the speculation aside, what really caught my attention is the amount of work required to learn something. 10,000 hour, just imagine working for something for this much amount of time, you will definitely have some kind of expertise in this field.

This chapter in the book uses the Beatles and Bill Gates as an example to explain the rule. 

“Put in 10,000 hours of practice and you will become an expert in the field.”

Outliers Book Summary Conclusion

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell goes against the widely held belief about success and tries to paint a completely different picture of success.

The studies and the ideas mentioned in the book are speculated to be inaccurate by many of the users. Many studies and research have even shown the pieces mentioned in the book to be inaccurate. But the book does stand its ground.

I felt the book to be a little dull in the second part. The second part is more of stories and the author tries to give more personal stories.

But overall I would recommend anyone to read this book once just for the amazing idea of looking into success in a different way. Many will disagree with the idea, but ideas are meant to be disagreed upon.

That’s it with the quick summary of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Do check out the book if this summary has tingled your curiosity.


Hey, I am Chetan Poojari the founder of Geeksla. I work as a Product Manager and also an Online Content Creator. A travel and tech junkie who writes articles to simplify complex things.

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