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Book Review – Outliers, The Story of Success

Last updated on 2012-12-10

After having read Gladwell‘s “Blink” and “The Tipping Point“, I was expecting a lot from “Outliers: The Story of Success“. And while it is a good book overall, it was somewhat disappointing.

“Outliers” is a book about what makes some people more “special” thank others. How highly successful people like Mozart, The Beatles, Bill Gates, professional hockey/soccer/basketball players, etc. are made. Is it some innate ability, luck, or is it something that is in our control? Bottom line, it is a mixture of all of them. The book tells the story of how highly intelligent people with didn’t get very far because of lack of luck or bad EQ; and of just above-average people who became very successful because they were hard workers, good communicators, and where just in the right place at the right time.

One main thing that I really identified with is the need to work hard to be successful. Gladwell  presents the “10K hour” line – to be really good at something, you must practice a lot. And it seems that 10K hours is the meaning of “a lot”. This is the amount of time the Beatles had played before they became famous, how much time Mozart had composed before he started creating masterpieces, and the time that most professional players have practiced before they become famous. And 10K hours is a LOT of time: for example, if you practice something 5 hours a week, this becomes 260 hours a year, which means it will take you 36 years to get to 10K hours. So you must work hard at what you do to get to this level of practice. So if you want to be a great programmer, you have to program for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 10 years… time to start coding.

Other than that, there are other tales in the book, some that explain why airplane crashes happen more in cultures with highly hierarchical societies, and why the Chinese succeed more at school (they have a working culture!). But the thread of the book is not constant and wobbles from chapter to chapter. Overall a good book, but his previous ones were better.

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