The Predictable Course of Success

Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

…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.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

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Success is a function of…

Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Hard Work

Working really hard is what successful people do, and the genius of the culture formed in the rice paddies is that hard work gave those in the fields a way to find meaning in the midst of great uncertainty and poverty. That lesson has served Asians well in many endeavors but rarely so perfectly as in the case of mathematics.

…[Erling] Boe’s point is that we could predict precisely the order in which every country would finish in the Math Olympics without asking a single math question. All we would have to do is give them some task measuring how hard they were willing to work. In fact, we wouldn’t even have to give them a task. We should be able to predict which countries are best at math simply by looking at which countries are best at math simply by looking at which national cultures place the highest emphasis on effort and hard work.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

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Image by Tuan Hoang from Pixabay

What Makes Work Satisfying

Those three things–autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us… Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

The Matthew Effect

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a big bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still–and on and on until the hockey player is a genius outlier. But he didn’t start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success