This week in our FreelanceFolder video we’re going to take a look at a very popular book in the business world — Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is currently number three on the New York Times Business Bestsellers list, and Gladwell is well known for producing excellent books, his two previous ones being The Tipping Point and Blink.
In this 5 minute book review we’re going to give you a quick summary of the book, we’ll discuss any and all of the interesting points we came across while reading it, and then we’re going to give you our impressions and a few actionable takeaways. Yes, it’s a lot to cover in 5 minutes, but just take a peek at the video and 5 minutes later you’ll be well versed about Outliers.
For those who would rather read a quick summary, we’ve typed out most of the review in the full article. Read on or watch the video to see more.
Outliers is a book about being successful — but it’s very unusual because it doesn’t discuss what you can do to be successful, it instead covers all of the things you can’t change that are responsible for success. Essentially, Gladwell spends the entire book investigating the environmental and circumstantial factors that influence a person’s success. He doesn’t talk about needing to be determined, or hardworking, or smart — he instead shows examples of how luck, random events, and opportunity have combined to make some people very successful where others are not.
Gladwell calls his book the “Story of Success”, and that’s a very apt description because the book is filled with stories and case studies of successful people. Istead of mentioning their personalities though, he explains all of the external factors that helped them succeed. Do you disagree that these external factors are a huge part of being successful? If so, read this book as Gladwell gives several hundred pages of information to show you jsut how important these opportunities and external situations can be.
The most interesting part about this book is the fact that it is entirely about things that are essentially unchangeable — and it can be very frustrating. As a business owner I like to read these books to find new ways to help myself become successful, and unfortunately one of the things I can’t do is to go back in time and change the situations and circumstances of my upbringing. I just can’t do it, and neither can you.
But, there are some ways that this book can be helpful — and for me personally the answer lies in changing the circumstances of my current life and future. One thing that Gladwell asserts strongly is the value of expertise, and specifically how it takes approximately 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert. Many of the most successful people he studied were perfectly positioned so that they had their 10,000 hours of experience just at the right time to create a business from it. You or I may not have the timing perfectly correct, but it is interesting to think about what you want to become an expert in (if anything) and then consider the circumstances necessary to make that happen.
Outliers is not the most takeaway-filled book, but there are a few important lessons that can be applied to your life and business with a bit of creativity.
Gladwell very convincingly asserts the value of practicing something for a long time. Most of his case studies were fully immersed in their field for 10 years before they hit serious success — and this is a powerful action-item to consider for your own business. Want to become great at something? Do it a lot.
Customize Your Environment
If anything is clear from reading this book, it is that your environment and surroundings matter — significantly. While not all of these factors will be controllable, there are thankfully a few that are within your own power to change. What can you do in your life to make sure you are well positioned for success? It’s something to think about…
Don’t Get Stuck
Throughout the book Gladwell shows examples of how small factors can influence the outcome of your life over a period of 10 or 20 years. This like not being assertive enough or allowing fear to stop you from taking action — both of these were among the huge limiting factors that Gladwell found in many ‘smart’ people who have not achieved their goals. Both of these are also things we typically learn at an early age and can have a hard time changing. One very important action you can take in your life is took look for these factors and work at changing them.
I found outliers to be at times very fascinating and at times rather boring and repetitive. Gladwell writes in his signature style which is usually very interesting, filled with a lot of stories and numerous details, but I found that once I already grasped the basic idea or premise in one of his stories the remainder often dragged out for a long time.
My other impression was that Outliers would seriously benefit from a few real-life takeaways or actions that the reader can take to apply this theory to his or her own life. I understand that Gladwell likes to write about general theories and ideas, but I still think this book would have benefited from a little more depth in that area.
Overall Outliers was a very interesting read, albeit a little light on the applicability and actionable takeaways. I would give it a 3.5/5 stars — if you’re interested in the the topics we discussed, and aren’t sure whether you agree or disagree with these assertions, then Outliers could be a very good read. If, on the other hand, you’re already doing a lot of these things and already agree with Gladwell on the basic theories, you might find Outliers to be a bit repetitive. In comparison with his other books, I think Outliers is unfortunately my least favorite of the three.
What do you think?
Have you read Outliers? Do you agree or disagree with my opinions of the book?
Are you thinking about reading it? Do you have any questions? Do you want to recommend another book for us to review? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.