Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell

What makes successful people successful? This is the age-old question that countless self-help books have aimed to answer. Theories of hard work, determination, and skill have been proposed, but Malcolm Gladwell shoots them all down and counters with his new, unique theory of circumstance in this book, Outliers: The Story of Success. He insists that we have all too easily bought into the theory that people are self-made, when in fact, people are made from hidden advantages, extraordinary opportunities, and cultural legacies. Of course, hard work, determination, and skill are important to achieve success, but so is circumstance.

Summary Notes

The “Matthew Effect”

A complete and conclusive recipe for success is difficult to construct, especially when small, integral details are overlooked. The Matthew Effect is one of these small, integral details—the events and circumstances surrounding us shape us and our future a lot more than we realize.

Keeping an eye out for the Matthew Effect is instrumental in helping us understand ourselves and the places our lives are in. It is the first step in moving toward success.

The Matthew Effect refers to how those who are successful are the ones who are given opportunities for further success. It explains why the rich get the biggest tax breaks, or why the brightest students get the most coaching from teachers.

The common situations where the Matthew Effect is observed.

This effect is especially seen in schools, where students born in the months of January, February, and March get significantly better grades than those born in the months of October, November, and December.

People who are born in the last month of the year can be developmentally 12 months behind those born in the first month, so it’s no surprise that they tend to perform poorly compared to their peers who were born earlier.

The implications of the Matthew Effect.

Success is not a function of individual merit—it depends largely on something as small as the month you were born in.

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