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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy, but don't plan your life on it
Outlier is a term used in statistics for a data point that stands out from the rest of the sample and this book is about the outliers of success. Near the beginning of the book the author says "... there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success." There is always more to success than the magical, in-built brilliance of the successful and that...
Published 12 months ago by Mac McAleer

versus
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very pretty. But, can it fight?
Perhaps the main problem with the book is its use of the word 'outliers' to refer to exceptional people, individuals who achieve so much more than others. It should instead refer to the exceptional circumstances that allowed them their meteoric rise to success. These factors - such as year and era of birth, family background, race and place of education - contain the...
Published on 7 Jan 2011 by Allen Baird


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars When did Gladwell get so PC?!, 12 May 2009
By 
Gladwell seems totally unaware of twin & adoption studies showing the degree to which behavioural traits, including intelligence, are largely hereditary.

In terms of Asian Math success he notes:

"Rice farming lays out a cultural pattern that works beautifully when it comes to math...Rice farming is the most labor-intensive form of agriculture known to man. It is also the most cognitively demanding form of agriculture"

This is fine, but Gladwell looks purely at cultural effects. What has been indicated in books like 'A Farewell to Alms' is that the most effective farmers tended to have the most children & hence there was genetic change in the population (selection for certain traits).

Recent research shows that with the advent of agriculture and population growth genetic developments have sped up over the past 10,000-15,000 years (see 'The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution'). Particularly, some of the changes are associated with brain & axon growth:

"The sweeping alleles we see are mostly regional - you see them in one group and not the other two. A fair fraction are neurological and likely to affect behavior in some way. For example, you see new versions of SLC6A4, a serotonin transporter, in Europeans and Asians. There's a new version of a gene (DBA1) that shapes the development of the layers of the cerebral cortex in east Asia."

Further, one of the genes associated with ADHD (DRD4) is rare to nonexistent in East Asia. A recent hypothesis suggests that the absence of 7R in East Asia is recent, consequent to the establishment of powerful polities that allowed population growth and forced agricultural intensification. PNAS January 8, 2002 vol. 99 no. 1 10-12

Also, Gladwells theory about rice growing seems a little inconsistent. Do the inhabitants of rice-growing southern China outperform the inhabitants of northern China in math? Northern China for millennia has been a wheat/millet/small grain-producing region rather than a rice region. Do Beijingers get beaten by Shainghainese on international math tests? Gladwell avoids this issue in a footnote and claims that "we don't know" if northern Chinese are good at math.

Gladwell also skips over studies showing East Asians perform about as well as their biological peers even when adopted into white households. Does culture explain this?

The explanation for Jewish success in the legal & other professions is similarly fanciful. He overlooks the most well documented explanation:

Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their average IQ at 107.5 to 115. That's only modestly higher than the overall European average of 100, but the gap is large enough to produce a huge difference in the proportion of of those with high levels of cognitive ability. When a group's average IQ is 100, the percentage of people above 140 is 0.4%; when the average is 110, the genius rate is 2.3%.

Cochran & Harpending at University of Utah noted that European Jews were forbidden to work in many of the common jobs of the Middle Ages from 800 to 1700 CE, such as agriculture, and subsequently worked in high proportion in professions such as finance and trade, some of which were forbidden to non-Jews by the church. Those who performed better are known to have raised more children to adulthood passing on their genes in greater proportion than those who performed less successfully.

G. Cochran, J. Hardy, H. Harpending, Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659-693 (2006).

One good thing about the book is showing that their are numerous background factors involved in a person's success. I particularly liked the discussion of the research on 10,000 hours to mastery.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea, but not convincing., 23 Jan 2009
By 
M. Pearson "Eagle Eyed" (Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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I found this book interesting and entertaining but ultimately disappointing.

Mr Gladwell makes the evidence fit his theories, with some selective examples of success. These are then turned into quasi-laws for success; 10,000 hours "hard labour", being born at the right time etc.

Overall though the book is unbalanced and a touch rambling. I'm still not really sure how the - very long - chapter on air crashes fitted into the overall concept, despite it being a very interesting read.

There are some inspirational moments in the book - who can fail to be impressed by the attitude, philosophy and work ethic of the Chinese rice farmers.

But overall, for me, Mr Gladwell's theories are unconvincing and in need of much more analytical and empirical rigour.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The nature/nurture debate in new guise, 22 Jan 2009
By 
R. Chang (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I was given a copy for Christmas. It is well written and easy to read. I cannot help thinking when I have finished that the book is just another example of the nature/nuture debate in new guise. Malcolm Gladwell appears to be rather good at dressing old concepts in new clothes (see his book on the Tipping Point). He makes the point that, after a threshold of innate ability is passed, it is the environment or life's opportunities and hard work that make the difference between major success and the also ran. One cannot feel that some of the "life's opportunities" present themselves because of ones forebears' innate ability. Further is the ability to work hard an inherited innate character or largely derived from the environment.
If he was arguing for a new approach in social policy, I do not think he succeeded.
I have a pragmatic approach in this debate - both nature and nurture are important. Where there is leveling of innate abilities, then the environment will make the difference. Conversely, when the environment factors have been levelled, then inherited innate abilities will make the difference.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars conversation starting, thought-provoking, 21 Nov 2008
By 
Mr. T. M. Steadman (London) - See all my reviews
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Spurred on by having tickets to hear Gladwell speak next week, I started reading this as soon as it arrived through the post. At first, I couldn't decide if Gladwell's ideas were incredibly basic or so profound I was missing something. By the time I finished, in one extended sitting, I was not only convinced by his argument about success, but empowered. I realised that Gladwell's brilliance is his ability to take what now seems like such an obvious, logical idea (clearly only in retrospect) and make it real. He not only makes the idea - that success is largely due to one's background and opportunities - come alive, but explains it in a fluent, engaging and utterly persuasive way. A way that, judging by the success of Blink or The Tipping Point, will surely make an impact on a massive number of people. A must read for anyone from their teens on up, who wishes to reconsider what we in the western world have been taught about success: that it requires, above all, spectacular talent or brilliance.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gladwell at his best - inspirational!, 21 Nov 2008
By 
Ms. E. C. Joyce (worcester) - See all my reviews
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I don't usually write reviews but was so surprised that someone could deem this 'boring', I felt compelled to respond. The one thing it isn't is boring. This book is fascinating, insightful and - as cliche as it sounds - empowering. It made me think a lot about my children and the way I thought about their potential for success. It made me reconsider the way I thought about my own personal achievements and the achievements of my family and friends. I love the way Gladwell tells a story and it's simply a delightful and inspirational book. I can't stop thinking and talking about the book to anyone and everyone who will listen!
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60 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and thought provoking, 21 Nov 2008
By 
J. Craig (London) - See all my reviews
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I've not done this before and need to fess something up straight away - I work for the publisher of this book and also work with Amazon. However having read the first review up for this title I have say I couldn't disagree more - this is by some way the best Gladwell I've read, it is bursting with the usual nuanced and angled views on (yes) quite an obvious subject. No, it's not a celeb heavy statement of greatness, it's much more subtle than that. What makes the book so strong is how Gladwell digs into what everyone knows - hard work brings success - to uncover all the other elements. In fact it's a mistake to assume the theme of this book is as simple as hard work = success. Gladwell shows the background, the groundings on which success occurs. In the case of many sports you can work as hard as you like or focus as much as possible on your success - unless you are born in the right places and get exposed to the right competition you are not likely to crack it. And the personal ending to this book is a real departure for Gladwell, a fascinating insight into the very real side of some of these theories. So, yes, I'm biased, and yes, don't buy this if you want to hear Bill Gates tell you how he got so good. But do buy it if you have interest in the hidden side of success, the sociological elements of achievement (and failure), and just the sheer joy in unseen paths that Gladwell can bring out. I'm lucky, I didn't have to buy it - but I rammed through it in one sitting, enjoying every second of it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The secrets of success, 2 Dec 2008
By 
What a fascinating book! Extremely readable and very persuasive explanations for why some people succeed in life and others don't. Only one minor criticism - he implies that the Colombian first officer was almost entirely to blame for the Avianca plane crash in 1990 but in fact New York ATC were later found to be 40% to blame. Which made me wonder if he was being over-selective in his other examples to prove an argument. But overall a very interesting and convincing book. How anyone can describe this as dull is beyond me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All success is luck apparently....epic fail., 28 Jan 2014
He explains why every success in the world is just luck and chance.

Bill Gates is Richest man in the world because of the year he was born and because he had access to a special computer.
Not to mention the thousands of other decisions he made along the way. Or the thousands of other people who had exactly the same opportunity but didn't take it.

Some interesting stories but Gladwell really missed the point of what it takes to be sucessful

He even goes down to why some people are only successful because they were poor and a jew.
Then others were only successful because they had rich families.

No matter what someone achieved he finds some random piece of information to show that they were just lucky.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware, 4 Nov 2013
By 
Christine Williams (England) - See all my reviews
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Beware this mildly entertaining collection of stories and anecdotes. They purport to provoke thought, but will actually mainly provoke jumping to conclusions on flimsy evidence. Anecdotes and small samples make for sloppy unscientific thinking as they ignore the myriad other stories that would lead to different conclusions. This book gives you no data, statistics or analysis, just anecdotes selected by the writer to make his points.
One of these points is that people who have achieved success and fame have often been lucky as well as talented. It seems to me that Malcolm Gladwell's lucky break is that people are swallowing his light offerings as if they contained some profound and original truths. The readers are seeing clothes on a naked emperor, and Malcolm is raking in the money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've looked at clouds from both sides now, 19 July 2013
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Malcolm Gladwell points out the obvious. Or what should have been the obvious. Using statistics and a type of insight, he finds that to be successful there is a minimum of natural ability and downright luck. Even them it does not guarantee want Malcolm supposed success is.

This book is a fun and easy to read book. But do not let it fool you into thinking that this is light reading or just the popular science of the day. There is a dead serious theory that appears to really apply (split infinitives allowed here.) Knowing this theory will help you to make the requirements for success instead of just guessing at them.

At least I came away with a different paradigm, and now see everything in the world differently.

It has been suggested that regardless of the factors in this book that one may be content with a job that fits his/her value-system.

I must have been schizophrenic in a job sense. In the U.S. Army and Reserves, I well enjoyed being a mechanic and power systems maintenance sergeant. While at the same time, I was a business/engineering systems analyst in the civilian world. So this book helps me look back to see how I found myself in the situation.

With a little bit of blooming luck.

How to Lie with Statistics
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