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Outliers Summary


Here you will find a Outliers summary (Malcolm Gladwell's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Outliers Summary Overview

The circumstances that lead to success are dissected, with a focus on the significant role opportunities play, often overshadowing hard work or inherent talent. This is exemplified in the Canadian Hockey League, where children born earlier in the year excel due to their physical advantages, receiving better coaching and playtime. This eventually leads to professional success as a majority of professional Canadian hockey players have their birthdays in the first quarter of the year. Another example is the 10,000 hours of practice needed to master a skill, as shown by figures such as Bill Gates and the Beatles, who had unique opportunities for endless practice. Furthermore, the timing of one's birth could also be an opportunity for success. Gates and other pioneers in programming had their youth coincide with the advent of personal computing. Similarly, 14 of the 75 wealthiest people in history were contemporaries, living in mid-19th century America. The implication is that success isn't solely determined by IQ but by a combination of factors including 'practical intelligence.' This is illustrated by the contrasting lives of Chris Langan and Robert Oppenheimer, both of whom faced adversities but only the latter enjoyed a successful life thanks to his practical intelligence. The narrative of Joe Flom, a successful lawyer born into an underprivileged Jewish immigrant family, also supports this, indicating that often, disadvantages can turn into advantages that contribute to success. The second half delves into the influence of cultural legacies. It highlights how deeply rooted cultural norms can significantly affect performance, as shown by the flight transcripts of several plane crashes where co-pilots from deferential cultures failed to point out the pilot's errors. This has led to the aviation industry implementing changes in communication. Disparities in public school math test scores between Eastern and Western countries are also discussed, attributing the former's success to their historically strong work ethic from rice paddy farming. It is also demonstrated that socio-economic factors impact the 'achievement gap.' For example, middle-class students retain more knowledge over the summer and make further gains than their low-income peers. However, schools like KIPP in South Bronx use extended school days and summer programs to bridge this gap, leading to academic success for all students. The conclusion is that an increase in available opportunities can lead to a higher number of successful individuals, enriching the world.

introduction section 1

During the late 19th century, migrants from Roseto Valfortore, Italy, relocated to Pennsylvania, working in a nearby slate quarry. They named their new home Roseto, replicating their old town, complete with schools, parks, shops, and factories. They kept their distance from the surrounding communities, largely comprised of Germans and English. In the mid-20th century, a local physician informed medical investigator, Stewart Wolf, about the low prevalence of heart disease in Roseto residents below the age of 65. Intrigued, Wolf conducted numerous tests and scrutinized the medical history of the populace. The minimal signs of heart disease, then the main cause of male mortality under 65 in the U.S., astonished him. Together with sociologist John Bruhn, Wolf discovered a complete absence of suicide, alcoholism, or drug addiction in the town, with the majority dying of old age. In Gladwell's view, Roseto was a true outlier.

introduction section 2

Wolf couldn't attribute the health of Rosetans to their diet or lifestyle, given their unhealthy eating habits and prevalent smoking. He also discarded genetics, as Rosetans' relatives elsewhere were not similarly healthy. Eventually, he concluded that the town’s culture and social structure were the secret to their health. The town had a tight-knit community with multigenerational households and numerous civic groups. Wolf and Bruhn faced considerable doubt. They had to strenuously persuade the medical fraternity that our environment and social circles greatly influence our identities. Gladwell's goal with Outliers is to bring the same transformation in our perception of success as Wolf brought in our understanding of health.

chapter 1 section 1

Gladwell discusses a match within the Canadian Hockey League, the premier junior hockey league globally. From a tender age, players undergo constant evaluation to distinguish the most skilled, preparing them for the subsequent level. The structure aims to embody a meritocracy.

chapter 1 section 2

Gladwell aims to illustrate that the context of one's upbringing is as crucial to their success as their intellect or dedication. The usual inquiries about the habits, abilities, or intelligence of prosperous persons often overlook the significance of their upbringing. Gladwell makes a comparison with trees, stating that the tallest ones had access to ample sunlight, well-nourished soil, and escaped the lumberjack's axe. He recommends examining the societal and ecological factors that contribute to an individual's success.

chapter 1 section 3

A discovery was made in the 1980s by Roger Barnsley, a psychologist from Canada. He noticed an unusual pattern within elite Canadian hockey teams, both in youth leagues and the NHL. The pattern was such that a significant majority of the players were born in the initial three months of the year.

chapter 1 section 4

The reason for the pattern of birthdays in hockey leagues is straightforward: the cutoff for league placement is January 1st. Thus, a child born on January 2nd will be nearly a full year older than a peer born in late December. This age gap often leads to significant differences in physical size, coordination, and maturity at ages nine or ten. By this age, coaches usually select the bigger, older children for the more competitive teams, providing them with superior coaching, additional practice time, and more match experience. By their early teens, these advantages have transformed into genuine skill, leading to selection for top-tier leagues. This pattern is not unique to Canadian youth hockey, but also occurs in American baseball and European soccer, albeit with varied cutoff dates. This trend is also noticed in the academic sphere. Research by economists Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhuey revealed that older fourth graders frequently outperform their younger counterparts on math and science tests, potentially affecting their eligibility for advanced programs. Upon expanding their research to include college students, Bedard and Dhuey discovered that the youngest students were over 10 percent less likely to attend a four-year college.

chapter 1 section 5

Elite hockey players had unmerited opportunities presented to them. This phenomenon, known as the "Matthew Effect" by sociologist Robert Merton, is described in the verse from the Gospel of Matthew, “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” This concept implies that the prosperous get more resources: top students receive premier education, the wealthiest citizens earn the biggest tax breaks, and physically bigger kids receive superior coaching. This notion is also known as "accumulative advantage" among sociologists. Gladwell highlights how cutoff dates prevent nearly half of potential athletes from being considered. The distribution of birth dates among junior hockey teams is identical in both Canada and the Czech Republic. If these countries divided their youth leagues based on those born in the first half and second half of the year, they could double the number of athletes for their national teams. In the same way, schools could divide kindergarten classes based on birth month segments. The benefits from this approach would outweigh the extra administrative efforts. However, as Gladwell points out, this system conflicts with society's inclination to value individual merit over societal rules.

chapter 1 section 6

Gord Wasden, a father of a Canadian Hockey League player, discusses his son. Scott Wasden, born on January 4, has always been larger than his team members. While he worked hard to reach his position, he also benefited from his physical advantage.

chapter 2 section 1

Bill Joy, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, is a highly respected figure in the world of computer programming. Initially considering a career in biology or maths during his time at the University of Michigan, Joy was captivated by the newly opened Computer Center. His passion for programming flourished and saw him continue his studies at UC Berkeley in 1975, where he dedicated a significant amount of his leisure time to coding. Post-graduation, he established Sun Microsystems and personally rewrote the Java programming language. His story illustrates how individual talent can lead to great success.

chapter 2 section 2

The potency of natural talent in determining success takes a backseat to preparation. A 1990s survey at Berlin's top music academy discovered a pattern in all world-class students—each had clocked in over 10,000 hours of practice, irrespective of their instrument. No exceptions were found amongst the top performers who practiced less or those who practiced as much but didn't succeed. Neurologist Daniel Levitin echoes this sentiment by declaring that achieving world-class expertise in any field requires a minimum of 10,000 hours. Even Mozart, a child prodigy, didn't compose his first masterpiece until he had reached this practice benchmark at the age of twenty-one. The successful youth athletes from the previous section also devoted 10,000 hours to rehearsing their sport. However, it's key to remember that such extensive practice isn't feasible without support. Most individuals require backing from parents, financial security, and often, a specific program, like a top-tier youth hockey team.

chapter 2 section 3

Bill Joy wasn't just smart, with a perfect math score on his Scholastic Aptitude Test, but he also had unique opportunities. He picked a college with a rare resource in the early 1970s - a time-sharing computer. Unlike his peers who had to pay for time on the machine, he exploited a loophole in the college's system to get unlimited access to the Computer Center within walking distance from his place. He devoted most of his spare time to programming, and when he attended Berkeley, he even had a terminal at home enabling him to code until he dozed off at the keyboard. This allowed Bill Joy to clock in 10,000 hours of programming during his college years.

chapter 2 section 4

The Beatles serve as a further testament to the 10,000-hours rule. In their early days as a high school band around 1960, they had an opportunity to perform in various Hamburg, Germany strip clubs. Their contract required them to play hours on end, every night of the week, allowing them to grow as musicians. Following a year and a half, they had taken the stage 270 times. By the time they achieved commercial breakthrough in 1964, their performance tally had skyrocketed to approximately twelve hundred—a record which exceeds what most bands achieve in their whole career.

chapter 2 section 5

Bill Gates, originally from a well-off family in Seattle, was enrolled in a private institution from the seventh grade. The school's Mother's Club sponsored a time-sharing terminal linked to a local mainframe computer, allowing young Gates to explore programming in his eighth grade. When funds ran out for the computer time, Gates persevered in his programming journey through a connection from school at Information Sciences, Inc. (ISI). One of ISI's co-founders later endorsed Gates for a programming task at the Bonneville Power station, which he started while still in high school as a part of an independent study assignment. Once Gates left Harvard, he had already amassed over 10,000 hours of experience in his field.

chapter 2 section 6

Fourteen of the seventy-five wealthiest individuals in history, all born within a nine-year timeframe (including figures like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan), were Americans who thrived during the economic revolution of the 1860s and 1870s, with the rise of Wall Street and railroads. Malcolm Gladwell suggests their timing of birth allowed them to capitalize on these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Similarly, tech giants like Bill Joy and Bill Gates were also born at a crucial juncture. The Altair 8800, a $397 microcomputer kit, was featured on Popular Electronics' cover in 1975. Those born prior to 1954 would typically find themselves employed by IBM, engaged in mainframe work. However, those born post-1956 would likely still be in school. Major figures of the computer industry, such as Gates, Joy, Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt, along with the other founders of Sun, all happened to be born in 1954 or 1955, positioning them perfectly for the technological revolution.

chapter 3 section 1

Chris Langan, known for his extraordinary intelligence, became a familiar face on TV after he was featured in various interviews and a documentary. His high school journey was a breeze, and he aced his SAT without breaking a sweat. As a teen, he even managed to read the entire Principia Mathematica. Eventually, on the quiz show 1 vs. 100, Langan walked away with a prize money of $250,000.

chapter 3 section 2

In the wake of World War I, Lewis Terman, the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, developed an interest in child geniuses. In 1921, he singled out 1,470 extraordinarily talented students, dubbed the "Termites." All through their lives, Terman meticulously recorded their academic successes, marriages, mental welfare, and careers. He was convinced that the Termites would rise to be America's future leaders. This same belief supports the use of IQ-based tests like the SAT, which Ivy League institutions and corporations including Microsoft and Google use for screening candidates. However, Gladwell asserts that Terman was mistaken about the Termites, and he would have misjudged Chris Langan in his youth as well.

chapter 3 section 3

Gladwell illustrates the concept of IQ testing with two distinct examples involving visual puzzles, noting that no language or factual knowledge is needed. Typically, individuals score 100 on these tests, with those below 70 being deemed mentally challenged and those above 115 likely to excel in graduate programs. However, Gladwell argues that an IQ beyond 120 doesn't significantly enhance success. He draws a parallel to basketball where being notably taller doesn't necessarily translate to being a much better player. It's enough to just be reasonably tall. Amongst the last twenty-five US recipients of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, not all are from elite institutions like Columbia, Harvard, or MIT. Some hail from less renowned colleges like DePauw, Holy Cross, and Gettysburg College. This pattern is mirrored in the field of Chemistry, with laureates from Harvard and MIT, but also from Notre Dame and the University of Illinois. While Harvard may boast of brighter students, numerous other colleges have students with the intellectual prowess to win a Nobel. At Michigan's law school, racial minorities constitute about 10 percent of the student body, a figure which would drop to 3 percent if not for affirmative action. Analysing post-graduation career trajectories, Michigan noticed no significant difference in success between white graduates and their minority counterparts. Despite starting with weaker academic records, minority students cross the success threshold on par with their white peers.

chapter 3 section 4

There are intelligence queries that don't have only one right response. They could, for instance, inquire about varied applications for a common object like a brick or a blanket, thereby testing creativity. In a prestigious British school, an amusing range of over ten uses is suggested by one student, while another - an exceptional intellect of the school, submits just a few practical applications. This kind of questioning could potentially be more predictive of future Nobel laureates than a traditional IQ test.

chapter 3 section 5

Terman made a mistake by solely using intelligence as a criterion to select his Termites. Despite some of them having fruitful careers, many surprisingly had less successful careers, even by Terman's standards. The two students, who were tested by Terman's team and eventually won Nobel prizes, were not chosen as Termites due to their below-average IQs. Terman ultimately determined that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated." Gladwell asserts that to comprehend Chris Langan's potential to become a "true outlier," more information about him is necessary.

chapter 4 section 1

Chris Langan was raised under difficult circumstances, being one of four children from different fathers. All of his mother's husbands faced unfortunate endings. Langan asserts he and his brothers had an upbringing filled with extreme poverty. While on scholarship at Reed College, he felt out of place among other students. Due to his mother's lapse in completing financial aid forms, Langan lost his scholarship and was forced to leave. Langan believes the institution didn't value its students. He later enrolled at Montana State University in Bozeman but withdrew when his request to modify his class schedule due to vehicle issues was denied by a dean. Despite his educational setbacks, Langan remains intellectually curious, and he's working on a theory titled the “Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe.” If offered a chance to work at Harvard, he acknowledges the intellectual stimulation it offers, but expresses concern about potential restrictions on intellectual liberty.

chapter 4 section 2

Gladwell highlights the peculiar circumstances surrounding Langan's academic journey. It's uncommon for institutions, particularly smaller ones, not to facilitate their students. Typically, bright individuals opt for educational institutions like Harvard over private sector jobs due to the intellectual liberty they offer. This is contrasted with Robert Oppenheimer's story. During his tenure at Cambridge, Oppenheimer attempted to poison his tutor due to aggravation. However, following discussions with the college authorities, he was merely put on probation and sent to a psychiatrist. This is in stark contrast with Langan, who had to leave college because his mother didn't complete the necessary paperwork. Despite his outrageous act, Oppenheimer continued his education and even persuaded General Leslie Groves to appoint him as the scientific head of the Manhattan Project. This illustrates Oppenheimer's persuasive skills, an ability that Langan lacked.

chapter 4 section 3

Robert Sternberg, a psychologist, describes the ability to influence others as "practical intelligence." It involves understanding what to say, when, and how to say it, as well as being able to read situations. People can possess either practical or analytical intelligence, and in some rare instances like Oppenheimer, both. To explain how one acquires practical intelligence, Gladwell cites a research by Annette Lareau. Lareau studied parenting styles in Black and white families from various socioeconomic backgrounds. She discovered two distinct approaches: “concerted cultivation” and “accomplishment of natural growth.” Concerted cultivation is a strategy where parents actively support their kids' interests and abilities, usually seen in middle and upper-class families. On the contrary, accomplishment of natural growth, found mostly in working-class or poor families, is when parents show minimal involvement in their children’s leisure activities. According to Gladwell, concerted cultivation prompts children to pursue growth opportunities and stand up for themselves. However, accomplishment of natural growth leaves children unable to manipulate their surroundings to their advantage. The attitude developed through concerted cultivation is more conducive to success in today's world.

chapter 4 section 4

Oppenheimer grew up in a wealthy family that nurtured his interests and sent him to an advanced private institution. In stark contrast, Chris Langan's sibling, Mark, claims they developed an aversion to authority during their childhood. Mark was also unable to secure financial assistance due to his lack of understanding of the process. Presumably, if Chris Langan had grown up in an environment that prioritized education, his chances of success would have been greater.

chapter 4 section 5

When the Termites group, composed of 730 males, began their professional lives, findings showed three distinct categories depending on their success levels. The highest fifth were high-income professionals, conversely, the lowest fifth were working in low-wage jobs or jobless. Terman’s analysis revealed that the latter group was predominantly from the most deprived socio-economic backgrounds. Their downfall was not having “a community around them that prepared them properly for the world.”

chapter 4 section 6

Residing on a Missouri equine ranch, Chris Langan spends his days penning thoughts and exploring the realms of physics and philosophy. Despite years spent crafting his words, they remain largely unseen by the public eye. Langan confesses that he has made no efforts to seek out publishers or secure an agent—and has no intention of doing so. His lack of the necessary backing left him short of achieving success. As Gladwell astutely observes, nobody ever ascends to success in isolation, be it accomplished musicians, top-notch athletes, technology moguls, or intellectual savants.

chapter 5 section 1

Joe Flom, the remaining original member of the esteemed law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, was a son to Jewish immigrants and experienced extreme poverty during the Great Depression. Despite graduating from Harvard Law School and achieving a spot on the Law Review, a privilege given to the best students, he struggled to secure employment. Eventually, Marshall Skadden and Leslie Arps employed him. In 1954, Flom rose to the position of managing partner and the firm started expanding rapidly. Presently, it boasts almost two thousand attorneys in twenty-three global offices.

chapter 5 section 2

Joe Flom's narrative may appear to be the classic tale of triumph over struggle. However, Gladwell insists that it's crucial to examine Flom's origins. Flom's hardships - poverty, being a Jew at a time of significant anti-Semitism, and living through the Great Depression- were paradoxically beneficial, Gladwell opines. He argues that understanding Flom's life can help predict the backgrounds of New York's most influential lawyers without any additional information.

chapter 5 section 3

The first lesson emphasizes the significance of Jewish origins. Joe Flom's Harvard peer, Alexander Bickel, also the child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, successfully completed his law degree at Harvard. However, the first company he applied to rejected him due to his background. During the 1940s and 1950s, attorneys who didn't fit the expected societal mold had to settle for employment in smaller, lesser-known firms. These firms typically dealt with cases the more prestigious firms wouldn't take.

chapter 5 section 4

Back in Flom's time, Wall Street legal firms primarily served large corporations, focusing on tax-related matters and the legalities of stock and bond issuance. Litigation was rare, and specialized divisions for lawsuits were seldom seen. Corporations rarely sued each other or engaged in hostile takeovers, considering such actions uncouth. Smaller firms were left to deal with litigation and "proxy fights", tactics used in hostile takeover bids. Joe Flom was particularly skilled at such proxy fights, often consulted by larger firms for advice. The legal landscape shifted in the 1970s as federal regulations loosened, leading to a more aggressive investing culture and a surge in corporate legal disputes. By the 1980s, the annual monetary volume in Wall Street mergers and acquisitions had skyrocketed by 2,000 percent. Flom's career mirrors that of Bill Joy and Bill Gates, who invested their free time in what were then obscure hobbies, only to reap significant rewards with the advent of personal computers. Flom, too, spent much of his legal career dealing with cases that most disregarded, only to find himself in a prime position when such cases became highly lucrative.

chapter 5 section 5

The second insight focuses on Demographic Fortune. A man named Maurice Janklow, born to Jewish immigrants, joined a law school in 1919. Despite his intelligent mind and quality education, and even though his family was quite prosperous, he didn't achieve significant success. In contrast, his son, Mort Janklow, achieved great triumphs. After successfully trading an early cable TV franchise, he established one of the most respected literary agencies globally. Gladwell suggests that the difference in fortune between the Janklow generations can be attributed to the different times they lived in.

chapter 5 section 6

Analyzing Terman's genius study differently, we can categorize Termites by birth year: those born from 1903-1911 and those born from 1912-1917. It seems that more failures are found in the earlier group. Though parental influences are significant, the period of birth also plays a critical role. The first group had to face the peak of the Great Depression during their college years, possibly interrupting their careers due to World War II. Conversely, the latter group graduated post-Depression and, if they survived the war, had better career opportunities. The Janklow brothers exemplify this. Maurice Janklow, born in 1902, was financially and emotionally devastated by the Depression, later scraping by through real estate paperwork.

chapter 5 section 7

Mort Janklow was fortunate to be born in the 1930s, a period known as the “demographic trough”. This era had fewer births compared to preceding and succeeding generations. As such, Janklow enjoyed the benefits of smaller class sizes in school and faced less competition for university admission. For someone with legal ambitions, his birth year was as advantageous as 1955 was for future software engineers and 1835 for budding entrepreneurs. Janklow's father, however, struggled through the 1918 flu pandemic, two global conflicts, and the Great Depression. Janklow believes his father might have fared better “in a different kind of world”.

chapter 5 section 8

The third lesson revolves around the relevance of the Garment Industry in providing significant employment. A couple named Louis and Regina Borgenicht moved from Hamburg, Germany to America in 1889. They belonged to a lineage of Eastern European Jews, attracted to the prospects of economic improvement in New York City. Observing the rising trend of apparel shops, Louis identified a gap in the market for little girls' aprons. Consequently, he procured a sizable amount of fabric, so he and Regina could start producing aprons within the confines of their living space.

chapter 5 section 9

Louis and his spouse, like numerous other Jewish migrants of that era, had gained experience in the apparel industry prior to migrating to the United States. By the turn of the 20th century, New York City had risen to prominence, becoming the global hub for garment production, largely under the control of Eastern Europeans. Therefore, for those who arrived in New York City during the 1890s with prior knowledge of the apparel industry, it was described as "a stroke of extremely good fortune."

chapter 5 section 10

Louis Borgenicht expanded his initial apron enterprise by reinvesting profits to make more products, eventually hiring staff and acquiring more equipment. By 1892, his team included twenty people and his operations expanded to include the production of affordable girls' dresses due to sparse competition. His continuous growth allowed him to acquire necessary business skills such as negotiation, market research, and manufacturing. This provided him with more significant opportunities for advancement in contrast to the limited potential of the average immigrant laborer. Despite the challenging nature of his work, Borgenicht derived satisfaction from his job due to its “autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward.” His work was fulfilling and impactful, similar to the early work experiences of Bill Gates and the Beatles, and provided a significant influence on children raised in homes where parents were engaged in meaningful work.

chapter 5 section 11

Louise Farkas, a sociology scholar in 1982, carried out research on the descendants of Jewish immigrants like the Borgenichts from the turn of the century. She found that in one family, the first generation were tailors, the next were garment makers, and the third were lawyers. Another lineage started with a leather tanner, proceeded to bag manufacturers, and advanced to doctors and lawyers. In a third family, a small grocery owner gave rise to seven doctors, three lawyers, and a psychologist.

chapter 5 section 12

Gladwell posits that the ideal birth time for a Jewish lawyer in New York would be circa 1930, with parents engaged in significant work. Joe Flom's arch-nemesis, the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, is among the globe's best. Their profitability in the last twenty years is unrivaled for their size. The founders, Herbert Wachtell, Martin Lipton, Leonard Rosen, and George Katz, were all born around 1930-1931 to Jewish immigrant parents involved in the clothing industry. Their cultural background and generational timing weren't hindrances but instead, doorways to opportunities.

chapter 6 section 1

Harlan, a town nestled in the southeastern reaches of Kentucky, finds itself within the Cumberland Plateau area of the Appalachian Mountains. This town came into existence in 1819, being established by settlers from the British Isles. The 19th century saw continuous feuds between two prominent Harlan families, the Howards and the Turners. These disputes often resulted in fatalities.

chapter 6 section 2

The Howards and Turners were part of a larger issue of familial violence in the Appalachian region, with the infamous Hatfields-McCoy feud, French-Eversole feud, and Martin-Tolliver feud being additional examples. One town on the Cumberland Plateau even saw a thousand murder charges over five decades. This violence can be attributed to a "culture of honor" prevalent in areas where farming is unfeasible and the economy is primarily livestock-based. The threat of livestock theft necessitates aggression and retaliation. As time passes, maintaining a reputation becomes more crucial. Many Appalachians are descendants of Scotch-Irish immigrants, herdsmen from a conflict-ridden region, and they perpetuate this culture in America. Hence, the high rate of homicides, particularly involving acquaintances, though property crimes are relatively scarce.

chapter 6 section 3

In a study during the 1990s, psychologists Dov Cohen and Richard Nesbitt from the University of Michigan decided to explore the concept of 'honor culture'. They recruited students to complete a survey in a confined corridor. While the control group finished their surveys without disturbances, another set of students found their exit blocked by someone going through file drawers, who was part of the experiment. As the students tried to get by, they were nudged and called an offensive term. Following this interaction, the researchers assessed the students' handshake strength, checked their cortisol and testosterone levels, and noted their responses to a contentious scenario involving romantic advances between two men. Cohen and Nesbitt concluded that geographical background influenced how students responded to the corridor incident, with those from the South reacting more intensely.

chapter 6 section 4

Gladwell emphasizes that the students didn't come from a herding background or have parents who were herders. Cultural influences, similar to accents, are inherited and continue to exist long after the environments that birthed them have been abandoned. As much as upbringing and opportunities contribute to success, inherited traditions and mindsets equally contribute.

chapter 7 section 1

Gladwell narrates the unfortunate incident of Korean Air Flight 801's crash in 1997. Despite the pilot being seasoned and fit, and the plane functioning flawlessly, a mishap occurred as they neared Guam. The Ground Proximity Warning System alarmed the pilot of the plane's close proximity - within 500 feet - to the ground. The runway was not visible due to the rain, leading the first officer to recommend aborting the landing and attempting another round. The captain, however, was not prompt in his response. Before the plane could regain elevation, it struck Nimitz Hill, resulting in the tragic death of 228 out of 254 passengers.

chapter 7 section 2

Korean Air experienced a higher ratio of plane losses than United Airlines by seventeen times from 1988 to 1998, with a minimum of six crashes in the two decades before. Following safety concerns, Delta Air Lines and Air France ended their affiliation with Korean Air in April 1999. However, the airline's safety record has been flawless since then. To understand the Flight 801 crash, Gladwell considers it essential to examine flight logs, weather conditions, and cockpit voice recordings. In Gladwell's view, Korean Air's turnaround was due to their readiness to address a cultural heritage.

chapter 7 section 3

Airplane accidents often stem from a series of minor mistakes, largely rooted in poor collaboration or miscommunication, as opposed to a drastic breakdown. Avianca Flight 052, a 1990 Colombian plane crash, is a case in point used in aviation classes. The flight, destined for New York’s Kennedy airport, was made to hover for over 60 minutes. A faulty autopilot system meant that the pilot had to manually land the aircraft. Encountering a wind shear issue during his first try, the pilot opted for a "go-around". However, the aircraft ran out of fuel and plunged.

chapter 7 section 4

Experienced pilot Suren Ratwatte, specializing in human influences on plane crashes, observes that the Avianca pilot, worn out, had the option to request a reroute. The co-pilot, tasked with interacting with Air Traffic Control (ATC), is noticeably missing from the cockpit dialogue. He does communicate to ATC about their potential fuel shortage. However, there seems to be a misinterpretation between him and the pilot - they perceive ATC's response "Cleared to the Kennedy airport" as being prioritized for landing, but in reality, they were merely added to the queue.

chapter 7 section 5

The cockpit's quietness is unusual. Rattwatte recounts an incident of having to make an unexpected landing in Helsinki because of a passenger's health crisis. His aircraft was above the standard landing weight due to excess fuel, adding to his unfamiliarity with the airport. Throughout the landing process, Ratwatte continued to communicate with the Helsinki Air Traffic Control, his co-pilot, two on-board doctors, and his flight crew. They all maintained a reassuring and composed demeanor, ensuring clear and effective communication.

chapter 7 section 6

The script of flight Avianca 052 reveals that post the botched initial landing effort, the pilot instructs the co-pilot to inform ATC about their dire situation. However, the co-pilot relays the change in direction to ATC and only mentions the fuel situation as an aside. He neglects to mention their critical condition. An air traffic controller involved with the flight comments on the absence of urgency in his tone.

chapter 7 section 7

The assistant pilot conveyed his thoughts using "mitigated speech," which is a polite and indirect form of communication. According to linguists Ute Fischer and Judith Orasanu, there are six degrees of mitigated speech used among airplane staff, from straightforward instructions (unmitigated) to mere implications of a problem, without recommending any solution. Their research showed that captains tend to use direct orders when talking to their assistants, while assistant pilots often subtly hint at issues to their superior officers. Another instance from a 1982 mishap reveals the assistant pilot hinted three times about ice on the wings, yet the pilot overlooked the hints and proceeded to take off. The aircraft crashed into the Potomac River shortly after. To prevent such communication breakdowns, from the late 1990s onwards, significant measures have been implemented to reduce the use of mitigated speech in commercial flight operations. Lower-ranking crew members are now provided with pre-determined phrases to express their concerns, such as: “Captain, I’m concerned about…” or “Captain, I’m uncomfortable with…” This strategy to limit mitigated speech is largely credited for the recent decrease in aviation accidents.

chapter 7 section 8

While attempting another landing pass, the pilot of Avianca flight 052 inquires from his co-pilot if their predicament has been relayed to air traffic control (ATC). The co-pilot, once again, communicates with ATC without clearly stating the emergency. When asked by ATC if they have sufficient fuel, the co-pilot ambiguously replies, “I guess so.” Shortly after this interaction, the aircraft's engines cease functioning and it plummets to the ground.

chapter 7 section 9

Ratwatte communicates that New York's air traffic control staff manage a significant amount of flights under high-pressure circumstances, which often results in them being perceived as brusque. They anticipate pushback from flight teams during critical situations. The Avianca pilot and copilot found this intimidating. They should have asserted that they were unable to fulfill the controller’s demands and needed to descend promptly. Gladwell posits that their inability to voice out their needs might be associated with their Colombian nationality.

chapter 7 section 10

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch psychologist at IBM in Europe, created a database to assess cultural disparities. His tool, known as “Hofstede’s Dimensions,” rates nations on several scales like “individualism-collectivism” and “uncertainty avoidance.” One particular scale, the Power Distance Index (PDI), gauges a nation's tendency to question authority; a low PDI suggests defiance, whereas a high one indicates submission. For example, the US has a low PDI and Colombia a high one. This played out in a real-life situation on Avianca flight 052, where the Colombian copilot was more submissive in his communication with the Air Traffic Control (ATC), leading them to underestimate the severity of the crisis. In contrast, an American copilot might have been more assertive, potentially averting the disaster.

chapter 7 section 11

A leading examiner from the US National Transportation Safety Board, Malcolm Brenner, contributed to the analysis of the Korean Air 801 crash. The aircraft needed to be landed visually due to an equipment failure at the terminal, relying on the airport's VOR beacon for navigation until they were close enough to see. The beacon was situated on Nimitz Hill rather than the airport itself, a fact that the pilot acknowledged in the preflight briefing. Despite this knowledge, the pilot didn't have an alternate strategy and was extremely fatigued as he neared Guam.

chapter 7 section 12

During that period, South Korean aviation culture gave complete authority to the pilot, with others showing extreme respect. It was customary for lower-ranked officers to present gifts to the captain, and it was even acceptable for captains to physically reprimand their subordinates for errors. As seen in the Flight 801 transcript during the Guam approach, the copilot mildly highlights the harsh weather conditions after the pilot expresses fatigue, hinting at the difficulty of a visual landing without any contingencies. When Guam appears visible, the flight engineer subtly indicates the weather radar's usefulness, implying impending issues. In the West, communication is “transmitter-oriented”, requiring the sender to ensure message comprehension and repeat if necessary. However, with Korea’s high Power-Distance Index (PDI), the communication is “receiver-oriented”. Therefore, the co-pilot and flight engineer of Flight 801 would anticipate the captain to mention any misunderstanding, but due to his tiredness, he is unable to focus thoroughly.

chapter 7 section 13

Korean Air recruited David Greenberg, a Delta Air Lines executive, in 2000 to oversee their flight operations. His primary mandate was that all pilots must speak English proficiently, as it is the universal language used in air traffic control. This language requirement also helped flight crew members to overcome cultural barriers, improving their ability to communicate and confront each other when necessary.

chapter 7 section 14

As Flight 801 is directed towards Nimitz Hill by the VOR beacon, the Ground Proximity Warning System signals the crew of their eminent collision with the earth. The flight team finds themselves in a state of bewilderment, having overlooked the fact that the beacon does not align with the runway. The second officer advises they consider a "missed approach". The flight engineer emphasizes, “Go around.” The Proximity Warning System proceeds to quantify the remaining distance to the earth until the moment of impact. The accident investigation concluded that the second officer likely had the power to prevent the catastrophe, had he elevated the aircraft when he initially proposed a missed approach.

chapter 8 section 1

Industrialization has significantly transformed Southern China in recent times, yet numerous rice fields persist in rural areas, reminiscent of ancient times. The process of building, nurturing, and maintaining a rice field is quite intricate and challenging. In China, rice features prominently in almost all meals and is a crucial component of their trade economy.

chapter 8 section 2

Stanislas Dehaene explains in 'The Number Sense' that how numbers are named can impact one's ability to remember numeric sequences. For instance, Cantonese speakers, due to the language's succinct numerical naming, can usually recall ten-digit sequences. In contrast, English speakers, grappling with their language's less systematic numerical naming, have only a fifty-fifty shot at remembering a seven-digit sequence. These naming systems are simpler in many Eastern countries, reducing the reliance on memorization in maths. This simplicity benefits the students, especially around third or fourth grade when Western students typically start to face challenges. This difference in naming conventions is one factor behind the math performance gap between Asian and Western students. A further cause as suggested by Gladwell, is the influence of rice cultivation history in Asian societies.

chapter 8 section 3

Unlike extensive Western farms that augment crop production using advanced machinery, rice paddies in the East are too compact to utilize such equipment. Unavailability and exorbitant costs further contribute to this issue. Consequently, rice cultivators have always had to toil harder than their Western counterparts. The only way they can enhance their output is by increasing their efficiency. This intense labour has deeply ingrained a culture of weaving hard work with success over the centuries, a distinctive trait in Asian societies.

chapter 8 section 4

Gladwell draws a comparison between a Russian saying that attributes crop yield to divine will, and various Chinese maxims on rice cultivation that emphasize the importance of personal effort in determining success. This principle of diligence being central to success was a key factor for Bill Joy, Joe Flom, and the Beatles in capitalizing on their opportunities. The teachings drawn from the tireless efforts in rice fields have contributed to the accomplishments of Asians in numerous areas, particularly in the domain of mathematics.

chapter 8 section 5

A mathematics educator at UC Berkeley, Alan Schoenfeld, records his pupils while they solve mathematical challenges. One captivating recording features a nursing student attempting to understand algebra. She spends over twenty minutes on a computer software that draws lines, trying to enter a slope that will result in a vertical line. Ultimately, she comes to the understanding that this would require dividing by zero, which would yield an undefined number.

chapter 8 section 6

Schoenfeld admires Renee's commitment to solving the problem, as most eighth graders would attempt a couple of times before surrendering and requesting the solution. A common perception is that mathematical proficiency is natural. However, Schoenfeld argues it boils down to disposition. Success in mathematics is derived from an eagerness to invest time and effort. In societies where surrendering is culturally discouraged, students are more inclined to excel in math.

chapter 8 section 7

The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is held every four years, assessing global students' proficiency in math and science while also collecting additional information through a survey. This survey, often left incomplete due to its extensive nature, asks about the students' background, including their parents' education and their own attitudes towards math. Erling Boe, an educational researcher, found an intriguing correlation: the nations whose students complete more of the survey also perform better on the TIMSS test. The top performers in both categories are Singapore, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Japan. Gladwell adds a footnote indicating that regional studies show varied success within China, with regions not descended from wet-rice farmers showing less success.

chapter 9 section 1

Gladwell shares the story of the KIPP school's establishment in South Bronx in the 90s. Catering largely to minority students, it's noteworthy that three-fourths of its pupils come from single-parent households, and 90% are eligible for subsidized meals. Despite these challenges, after a decade in operation, KIPP has earned its reputation as a top school in New York City. By the time students reach 8th grade, 84% of them meet or exceed grade level in maths. The success of KIPP has led to the establishment of over fifty similar schools across the U.S.

chapter 9 section 2

Significant changes were made to the U.S. public school system during the early 1800s. The aim of these transformations was to grant each child access to education and equip them with the necessary skills for being contributing citizens. The reformers also introduced the concept of long summer holidays, an idea unique to America, as they theorized that too much learning could be detrimental. Gladwell draws a parallel with American farming practices, noting the necessity for fields to undergo periods of rest in order to remain productive.

chapter 9 section 3

John Hopkins University's Karl Alexander examined test scores of first-grade public school students in Baltimore. He noticed that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, showed similar advancement during a school year. However, during summer breaks, disadvantaged kids either regressed or stalled, whereas their middle-class and affluent counterparts continued to progress. The problem doesn't lie within the schools, but rather with the absence of learning outside of them. There's a stark contrast with Asian schools, which don't have lengthy summer breaks. On average, US schools have 180 classroom days, while South Korean schools have 220 and Japanese schools have 243. The effectiveness of KIPP schools lies in embracing the work ethic from rice paddy farming.

chapter 9 section 4

David Levin, a co-founder of the inaugural KIPP school, outlines the intensive timetable. Pupils are in class from 7:25 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekdays, with extracurricular activities extending until 7 p.m. They also have school on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and for three weeks in July from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The protracted hours allow for a lengthier explanation of concepts and additional time for student comprehension. A math teacher argues that the speed of typical American math education only benefits quick learners.

chapter 9 section 5

Marita, who attends KIPP, rises at 5:45 a.m., and doesn't return home until after 5:30 p.m. She continues her studies until 9 or 10 at night, her only break being for dinner. If she is awake beyond 11, it becomes a struggle to stay alert during lessons. This rigorous routine is not unique to her but is typical among KIPP middle schoolers.

chapter 9 section 6

Marita, a twelve-year-old, has chosen to trade a portion of her childhood for the prospect of future success. She has shifted from public school friendships to friendships solely within KIPP, a school known for its scholarships. About 90% of KIPP students obtain scholarships for private high schools and 80% of its graduates transition to college. “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them,” Gladwell states, reflecting on various cases in his book "Outliers". He emphasizes that instead of sticking to the belief that only the most intelligent and skilled can thrive, society should strive to generate more opportunities for all individuals.

epilogue section 1

Born to schoolteacher parents in Jamaica in 1931, a set of twin girls, Daisy Nation's daughters, were granted scholarships to a boarding school in the northern coastal region when they were eleven. Post their schooling, they both pursued higher education at University College in London. One of the twins, Joyce, ended up marrying a man named Graham, and they settled in Canada. Joyce had a fruitful career as a writer and is the mother of the renowned author, Malcolm Gladwell.

epilogue section 2

Gladwell highlights the numerous chances his mother was granted. Both she and her sibling were provided scholarships to study in a boarding school a year after its introduction. Joyce's schooling was maintained because her sister secured a pair of scholarships. Daisy Nation procured a significant amount of funds to afford Joyce's educational expenses in England.

epilogue section 3

Daisy Nation's lineage played a crucial role in providing her with numerous prospects. Her great-granddad, William Ford, was an Irish immigrant to Jamaica in the late 18th century. He had a child with a West African slave he owned. The societal structure in Jamaica was more accommodating to individuals of mixed race, a contrast to the American South. However, skin color remained a key determinant of one's potential for success. Daisy, being of mixed heritage and supported by an educated family of prosperous entrepreneurs, was presented with numerous opportunities.

epilogue section 4

Jamaican families, since Daisy Nation's great-grandfather's days, have historically favored children with lighter skin, often disregarding darker-skinned relatives. Joyce's experience with racial discrimination in England, when she was evicted for being Jamaican, prompted her to reflect on her own prejudice against darker-skinned individuals. Gladwell recapitulates the sequence of opportunities detailed in his book that led his mother to study in a London university. He suggests that a greater number of individuals could lead fulfilled lives if they were given similar chances.

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