Rebecca's Reviews > Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: philosophy, political

Gladwell argues that success is tightly married to opportunity and time on task. He states that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master something and that gives me comfort. It helps me feel better about my many failures at initial attempts to master things (like glazing pottery, algebra, Salsa dancing, skiing and sewing... to name a few). I kept thinking, "I've just got to put in more hours if I want to do better."

While I can see a different way of spinning the data provided to support Gladwell's argument, I didn't care. In a rare moment, I found myself not wanting to argue. : ) Instead, I found myself reflecting on things that have felt like lucky opportunities in my own life. This reflection was very humbling.

Moreover, I felt the text tugging at the need for greater equity. What could all the people with limited opportunities do if given greater opportunities? Think Darfur. How many people who might have come up with the cure for pancreatic cancer been forced to spend their time standing in lines waiting for clean water or food?

My own personal experience as a teacher of refugees reflects Gladwell's primary thesis. Many of my refugee students are pre-literate. They have not been given the opportunity to gain a formal education. As a result, there are many well-intended, but misinformed people who place these students in special education courses or deem their I.Q. low, diminishing their opportunities even more.

The students I teach are hungry for skills and spend hours outside of class practicing. They make huge gains despite earlier opportunities denied them. While many will not go on to big colleges out of high school, I feel like given enough opportunity and time they could make it there. Sadly, many have families who depend on them to work to help financially support the family. (Yet, another limited opportunity to spend time focused on developing skills.)

In the past week, I have shared Gladwell's thesis with my students. We have applied the 10,000 hours to master a task to reading and writing. I remind students that if we don't get our 10,000 hours this year together, they must continue on their own. I remind them that it IS possible to move forward if they are focused and keep adding hours of work to their reading and writing. We even write on the board how many hours left before we are masters.

"2 hours down, only 9,998 left to go."

Friday, I had a student from Somalia smile and ask, "So it's not true that white people are smarter than black Africans? They just get more chances to read?" Imagine my pleasure when I could respond, "YES! That's correct. You are just as smart as any white kid in this school. It's just that some of them have been reading for years and you are just getting started."

Thank you for your work Galdwell, it is salient in today's political conversation surrounding education (especially for our most vulnerable students who have been given the fewest opportunities).
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 27, 2008 – Finished Reading
December 6, 2008 – Shelved
December 31, 2008 – Shelved as: philosophy
December 31, 2008 – Shelved as: political

Comments Showing 1-41 of 41 (41 new)

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message 1: by Samantha (new)

Samantha I've thought about this for quite some time. I wonder how many more Einsteins, Hawkings, Da Vincis, or Newtons there are out there, who if given a few more hours of free time (or even, holy smokes, a square meal once a week), could turn this world upside down. When I think of how many hours I’ve squandered just kicking around, watching truly awful television…


message 2: by Liza (new) - added it

Liza I heard Hawking speak at Caltech, he said that he was no smarter than the professors there, and that some of them were smarter. The biggest difference was there were fewer distractions in his life and therefore he had time and was forced to focus on his area of discipline.


Travis I really loved your review. Beautiful and inspiring, and interesting to see the application of these ideas to immediately start inspiring the people you work with. Thank you.


Betsy Several people have said to me Malcolm's theory of putting in 10,000 hours. You reminded I want to read this book. Thanks


message 5: by Canuckgal (new) - added it

Canuckgal Beautiful, beautiful take on this book. Thank you for it! I am a social worker for abused kids and your review gives me something to pass on to them (ok, I'll read the book as well!!)


message 6: by Ravi (new)

Ravi Narayanan Thanks for your review. If one small change happens for any one then that book has served the purpose.


message 7: by Jed (new)

Jed Well said. My god, all the human potential we squander!


message 8: by Fayley (new) - added it

Fayley Thank you for a beautiful review.


Riya I really, really like your review. The second to last paragraph made me tear up.


Vishal Pretty much what i wanted say. Thats a wonderful review.


Jeremiah Smith I liked the section on IQ. Outliers is about outward circumstances making us where we are, but you're born with your IQ, and can't change it. This brings up an interesting question, what do you think is the difference between intelligence and wisdom? Could Outliers have done a chapter on the wisest people?


message 12: by Wee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wee Ah kuan I like the comment and review of you all! Thank for the effort was put in in this site. Just do it to help more needed people for the knowledge .


message 13: by Xiang (new) - added it

Xiang I always feel that "10000 hour" thing very artificial and never really bought into it. But indeed, the general insights, way of thinking and inspirations provided by this book are still quite worthwhile.


message 14: by Xiang (new) - added it

Xiang I didn't really get Jeremiah Smith was talking about... I don't think Outliers put any emphasis on IQ data. What it proposes is that when you have a basic IQ level, it's other things that matter more. And the vast majority of people have this level of IQ so just don't use it as an excuse. And your talking is not really the way of thinking Outliers is promoting. But still, my take on "wisdom" is that in daily usage it is basically an equivalent word for "experience". Nothing more. On experience you can do nothing about except for waiting for the passage of time. For everybody it's the same, just don't worry about it. This is largely irrelevant to Outliers' messages, again.


Stevie I really liked this review. Thanks. I've heard the 10k mastery thesis applied to much more... Mostly because of cellular memory. Like Tiger Woods ( but instead of hours it was swings) and most recently in wavelength changes in the brains of Buddhist monks who have meditated for as much as... 10k hours. Such a refreshing view of success. Thanks again.


Santo Does anyone care about science anymore? Science is investigating what the truth is, not what we as humans wish to believe. This is a nonfiction book after all


William What a beautiful and insightful review! I agree wholeheartedly.


message 19: by Alex (new)

Alex Gins how many hours are in a year ?


Jazya  Bozakok Very nice review, u encourage mr to read it ,


Jazya  Bozakok Very nice review, u encourage mr to read it ,


message 22: by Sana (new)

Sana wonderful perception shared by you about your students brings a lump into my cold,stone hear-ted and cynical soul,reading the book and thoroughly enjoying it


message 23: by Hala (new) - added it

Hala Alnahas Thank you for the inspiring, spot-on review , I felt what all the others felt , second to last paragraph made me tear up too ! , a must read book apparently .. :)


message 24: by Annie (new)

Annie Liu This is a beautiful review. I'm on page 57 and really loving it


message 25: by Mohamed Jalloh (new)

Mohamed Jalloh Hi I like your story


message 26: by Tolu (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tolu Jawando Thank you for this review, beautiful words indeed.


message 27: by Bercy (new) - rated it 1 star

Bercy Vallo Hi Rebecca. This is what I'm looking for in book reviews. How wonderful are the insights you got from this book! How beautiful your story is in applying and teaching what you learned in this book. This made me think that if the book review is beautiful, how much more is the book? :)


message 28: by MusicStudio (new)

MusicStudio Hayutin Reading it now. Like


message 29: by Ruth (new)

Ruth E. R. Nice review. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us. It does bring to my mind the question: how many times has the inventor of the cure for cancer or the next great composer been murdered before being given the opportunity to take his/her first breath?


Sophia Y. Shows insight on things that people would never think about on their own... Couldn’t put it down!!


Sophia Y. @Rebecca I agree with your comments


message 32: by Ryan (new) - added it

Ryan You sure are humble.


message 33: by Efe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Efe Udoro I'm even encouraging myself to learn and master Web Development and programming, I occasionally play Chess on my phone and the board, but I'm not satisfied with my progress in Chess. If I don't become a grandmaster someday, I'll feel not so happy.
I love chess, management accounting, Web Development, and a few other things like politics and redefining the media.
I realize I can't do all at once, so I'll have to prioritize. Hence, management accounting will come first so as to put food on my table and pay the bills.
I enjoyed the book too. He really showed that timing of birth could be the difference between a successful career and an unsuccessful one.

I also like where he linked the cultivation of rice to Asia's success in some other areas like Math. He also talked about the pronunciation of numbers as having effect on their math performance than that of Western students

Congrats for the exposition


Cosmad Malcolm Gladwell Outlier is almost perfect. He is made me look at success from a whole new perspective. I have always believed that no man is self made, now I have facts to argued it.


photonslave Thanks for sharing this heart tugging review.


message 36: by Richelle Munoz (new)

Richelle Munoz Wow I just read all the reviews it amazes me how a book can change your outcome on things and look at things differently i love how all of you guys out your honest opinion and took the time of your day to leave a comment i really appreciate it and it's 3:42 at this moment just came back from work and dennys!! The toast was great and now im here not sleeping yet 3:42a.m.


message 37: by Richelle Munoz (new)

Richelle Munoz Put*


message 38: by Tony (new) - added it

Tony Franchina ☆☆☆☆☆ Review!


message 40: by Ulas (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ulas Uygun I think I’m getting the book partly because of your insightful comment. 🙏 I find it inspiring that you were able to experience Gladwell’s point in your life.


message 41: by Tahira (new) - added it

Tahira  Maria Alberte Your comments are heartfelt. As an educator of many ELL students myself, my students need to hear more things put like this. Thank you. <3


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