The Story of Success

Paperback - 2011
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Overview: There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. And in revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.
Published: New York, New York :, Back Bay Books,, 2011.
Edition: First Back Bay paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9780316017930
Branch Call Number: 302 GLA
Characteristics: 309, 10 pages :,illustrations ;,21 cm


From Library Staff

Task 17: A business book

Gladwell draws surprising and interesting connections between the different causes of individual success.

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” Gladwell contends that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to master a skill. Those that reach mastery have, in some way, had a greater opportunity for practice whether it's by virtue of being older, the righ... Read More »

DBRL_LyndseyR Apr 20, 2018

After watching a Ted Talk by Malcolm Gladwell several years ago, I’ve been wanting to read "Outliers". I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did! Our idea of successful people is so focused on the individual’s natural talents, that we never consider where they come from or how opp... Read More »

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Jul 15, 2020

This is one of the most impactful books I've read recently. Gladwell presents us with a well-constructed and thought-provoking examination of the factors that lead to success, and also the dynamics that get in the way.

Feb 08, 2020

This book is very well researched. It teaches us how opportunity plays a critical role in the success of the individual.

A revealing quote:
"No successful person succeeds of their own efforts. They are products of their times, places, and environments."

Jan 13, 2020

Reading a Malcolm Gladwell book is like peeling the layers of an onion but without the tears. Layers and layers of thought. Always thought provoking.

Jan 10, 2020

Highly enjoyed this book.

Dec 29, 2019

Another book to make you see things differently. This time it is the concept of personal success which, if you believe the author’s research (and it makes sense), is due more to the good luck of timing, opportunity and cultural legacy (a new concept for me) than intelligence and ambition. It became more interesting the further I read and caused me to sit and think about the course of my own life. I think this could be a valuable book for anyone to read - maybe especially would-be parents.

Aug 28, 2019

Entertaining, but really uneven... The book is divided into two main parts. The first one is called Opportunity and is focused on explaining the success of individual outliers. The second part called Legacy is focused on the success or failure of various cultures.

While the first part, Opportunity, is more entertaining, it is the weaker of the two. Gladwell makes such an effort to explain out the outliers as to render them entirely mainstream that he forgets that they are outliers. He explains so much by what year they were born. To quote him: “For a young would be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for software programmer, or being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.” His logic is that about 20 to 30 years after those respective dates hostile merger and acquisition became prevalent on Wall Street, the computer revolution took off, and the industrial revolution in the U.S. really got going, respectively. Thus, in his views outliers are no more than a product of their time. However, this argument does not look at the other side. For instance, Bill Gates was not just a product of the computer revolution. He was a key individual that actually created the computer revolution. Without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and very few others, there was no computer revolution. This same logic can be advanced with the key entrepreneurs during the industrial revolution or lawyers during the wave of hostile takeovers. These individuals just like Bill Gates were not just passive agent surfing the wave of their respective time. They were the respective storms that created the waves.

To add further relativism to the determinism of year of birth, during the mid 1930s, 15 million were born (that makes for a lot of potential lawyers). Between 1953 and 1956, over 16 million were born. That makes for a bunch of prospective computer geeks. In other words, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were still one in a million individual (actually one in several millions).

The second part on Legacy is on far stronger ground. Two chapters really stand out. One of them explains why South Korean Airline had the worst record in plane crash because of a cultural respect for authority (the captain reigns supreme and can’t be corrected even if he is exhausted and ready to fly a plane into a mountain). The other chapter explains the Asian cultural superiority in k-12 achievement in mathematics (a superior language structure to understand math operation logically; a 240 day school year vs. 180 in the US; and a culture of grit and perseverance).


Malcom Gladwell pens a really fascinating non-fiction book that examines what factors contribute to an individual’s success. While I had originally believed that success comes from only a person’s work ethic, I soon realized how multi-faceted achievement truly is. He makes some really strong arguments and his observations are incredibly insightful and informative. I think that the way in which I looked at successful versus struggling individuals changed drastically from the book. I have to recommend this book to others as it was interesting and eye-opening. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Aug 07, 2019

The audiobook is read by the author, who reads it quite well, if a bit too slow (I listened on a Playaway device and could increase the speed slightly).
The work itself is terrific, especially how cultural legacies create the inequalities that matter and that current policies do not address them.
Its sad about the culture into which this book was released is one that can have it produced, but that also it just gets praised and, well, ignored, or at least not acted upon.

Feb 11, 2019

This book gives you a golden opportunity to expand your world view, knowledge and outlook on success. Learning that success is truly, by fact, a mixture of luck, circumstance and hard work can be a relief. We learn that some things like what day you were born or what religion you are is out of your control, but you can always put in 1000 hours of practice into what you love, after all practice makes perfect. I would give this book a 5/5. I loved it. It was well researched, and the information was well presented. You never get bored and always finish a chapter wanting to dive in deeper; not that we would expect anything less form Gladwell.
@Pandora of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Dec 28, 2018

This book offers great insights to *hidden* factors behind success. It shows very well how arbitrary decisions while designing some rules lead to an advantage bias for some subset of people. I highly recommend this book.

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Oct 17, 2018

"... the Beatles didn't recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a night, seven days a week [for early gigs in Germany]. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you [successful] ...". (p. 150)

Dec 15, 2011

To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.

Nov 05, 2009

... and no one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses - ever makes it alone.


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Aug 16, 2018

hawkinsc thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Oct 17, 2018

"... We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally [into existence] ... But that's the wrong lesson. ... To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success ... with a society that provides opportunities for all. ... The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all." (p. 268, 285)


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