Book Review - Outliers: The Story of Success


  • Author:       Malcolm Gladwell
  • Subject:       Successful people
  • Publisher:   Little Brown & Co., New York
  • Year:           2008
  • ISBN:          9780316017930


Despite easy to read, I think the book does not convey many new ideas as to what makes people succeed. The nexus of the book is that successful people, no matter how gifted, do not make things by themselves; rather they owe a big part of it to the conducive environment in which they are in. Therefore we should not totally take in the notion of "self-made billionaires/innovators" but instead look carefully how their surroundings have assisted them in making their achievement.

Though the stories flow well, I think the whole thesis is no much different from the notion of fundamental attribution error we learnt from psychology classes. The fact that we tend to make internal attribution to explain the people's behavior is well researched. We like doing so because it is simpler to make these inferences than to learn about the "factors" behind a person's success. And perhaps more importantly, successful people like to brag about their "self-made" stories in the hope that we buy them.

So basically the implications of the book is the same as that of fundamental attribution error - we have to be reminded of our attribution tendency and be cautious about the hype out there to idolize people. At the same time, we should try to provide more equal opportunity to those gifted in a way so that we give a fairer chance for everyone to flourish. Of course it is easier said than done - we know how many happenings in the world are totally arbitrary.

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