April 29, 2022

Outliers

I made 94 highlights while reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book will give you insights into the many factors behind success.
  • The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town.

  • No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.

  • If you have the ability, the vast network of hockey scouts and talent spotters will find you. If you are willing to work to develop that ability, the system will reward you.

  • In the autobiographies published every year by the billionaire/entrepreneur/rock star/celebrity, the storyline is always the same: our hero is born in modest circumstances. By virtue of his grit and talent, he fights his way to greatness.

  • People don't rise from nothing.

  • It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement, ways we cannot begin to imagine.

  • It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. Only by asking where they are from can we unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't.

  • If you decide who is good and who is not good at an early age. If you separate the 'talented' from the 'untalented'. And, if you provide the 'talented' with a superior experience, then you're going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people born closest to the cutoff date.

  • 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'.

  • He didn't start an outlier. He started just a little bit better.

  • We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail.

  • We overlook just how large a role we all play - and by 'we', I mean society - in determining who makes it and who doesn't.

  • Those were the ingredients of success at the highest level: passion, talent, and hard work.

  • Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.

  • Ericsson's study couldn't find any 'natural' musicians who floated effortlessly to the top whilst practising a fraction of the time than their peers. Nor could they find any 'grinds', people who worked harder than everyone else yet didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks.

  • Their research suggests that once a musician gets into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works.

  • Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.

  • Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.

  • Before he could become an expert, someone had to allow him to learn how to be an expert.

  • By the time The Beatles had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Most bands today don't perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.

  • By the time Gates dropped out of Harvard to try his hand at his own software company, he'd been programming practically nonstop for seven consecutive years.

  • I don't mean to suggest that every software tycoon in Silicon Valley was born in 1955. Some weren't, just as not every business titan in the United States was born in the mid-1830s. But there are clear patterns here, and what's striking is how little we seem to want to acknowledge them.

  • We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit.

  • These are stories, instead, about people who got given a unique opportunity to work hard and seized it, and who happened to come of age at a time when the rest of society rewarded that extraordinary effort. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up.

  • Once someone has reached an IQ of around 120, having additional IQ points doesn't seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.

  • To be a Nobel Prize winner, you have to be smart enough to get into a college at least as good as Notre Dame or the University of Illinois. That's all.

  • With a divergence test, there isn't a single correct answer. What the test giver is looking for are the number and the uniqueness of your responses. And what the test is measuring isn't analytical intelligence but something profoundly different - something much closer to creativity.

  • Harvard is a glorified corporation, operating with a profit incentive. That's what makes it tick. It has an endowment in the billions of dollars. The people running it are not necessarily searching for truth and knowledge. They want to be big shots, and when you accept a paycheck from these people, it will come down to what you want to do and what you feel is right versus what the man says you can do to receive another paycheck. When you're there, they got a thumb right on you. They are out to make sure you don't step out of line.

  • To Sternberg, practical intelligence includes things like 'knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect'.

  • You can have lots of analytical intelligence and very little practical intelligence. Or, lots of practical intelligence and not much analytical intelligence. Or, as in the lucky case of someone like Robert Oppenheimer - you can have lots of both.

  • Social savvy is knowledge. It's a set of skills that have to get learned.

  • The middle-class parents talked things through with their children, reasoning with them. They didn't just issue commands. They expected their children to talk back to them, to negotiate, to question adults in positions of authority. If their children were doing poorly at school, the wealthier parents challenged their teachers. They intervened on behalf of their kids. The poor parents, by contrast, are intimidated by authority. They react passively and stay in the background.

  • Lareau calls the middle-class parenting style 'concerted cultivation'. It's an attempt to actively 'foster and assess a child's talents, opinions and skills'. Poor parents tend to follow, by contrast, a strategy of 'accomplishment of natural growth'. They see it as their responsibility to care for their children and let them grow and develop independently.

  • The poorer children were, to her mind, often better behaved, less whiny, more creative in making use of their own time, and had a well-developed sense of independence. But in practical terms, concerted cultivation has enormous advantages.

  • The plain truth of the Terman study, however, is that in the end, almost none of the genius children from the lowest social and economic class ended up making a name for themselves.

  • They lacked something that could have been given to them if we'd only known they needed it: a community around them that prepared them properly for the world.

  • No one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses - ever makes it alone.

  • To have been born before 1911 is to have been demographically unlucky. The most devastating events of the twentieth century hit you at precisely the wrong time.

  • Being born in the early 1930s was a magical time for a would-be lawyer. Just as being born in 1955 were for a software programmer. Or, being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.

  • Mort Janklow went to New York City public schools when they were at their best. Maurice Janklow went to New York City public schools when they were at their most overcrowded.

  • The Irish and the Italians were peasants, tenant farmers from the impoverished countryside of Europe. Not so the Jews. For centuries in Europe, they had gotten forbidden to own land, so they clustered in cities and towns, taking up urban trades and professions. Seventy per cent of the Eastern European Jews who came through Ellis Island in the thirty years or so before the First World War had some occupational skill.

  • From the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century, the garment trade was the city's largest and most economically vibrant industry. More people worked making clothes in New York than at anything else. More clothes got manufactured in New York than in any other city in the world.

  • To come to New York City in the 1890s with a background in dressmaking or sewing or Schnittwaren Handlung was a stroke of extraordinary good fortune. It was like showing up in Silicon Valley in 1986 with ten thousand hours of computer programming already under your belt.

  • Those three things - autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people agree, the three qualities that work must have if it is to be satisfying.

  • If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I'm guessing the former. There is complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that's worth more to most of us than money.

  • Jewish doctors and lawyers did not become professionals despite their humble origins. They became professionals because of their humble origins.

  • The so-called American backcountry states - from the Pennsylvania border south and west through Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, and the northern end of Alabama and Georgia - were settled overwhelmingly by immigrants from one of the world's most ferocious cultures of honour. They were 'Scotch-Irish' - that is, from the lowlands of Scotland, the northern counties of England, and Ulster in Northern Ireland.

  • The triumph of a culture of honour helps explain why the pattern of criminality in the American South is so distinctive. Murder rates are higher there than in the rest of the country. But crimes of property and 'stranger' crimes - like muggings - are lower.

  • Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished. They play such a role in directing attitudes and behaviour that we cannot make sense of our world without them.

  • The 'loss' rate for an airline like the American carrier United Airlines from 1988 to 1998 was .27 per million departures, which means that they lost a plane in an accident about once in every four million flights. The loss rate for Korean Air, in the same period, was 4.79 per million departures - more than seventeen times higher.

  • Korean Air turned itself around. Today, the airline is a member in good standing of the prestigious SkyTeam alliance. Its safety record since 1999 is spotless.

  • Korean Air did not succeed - it did not right itself - until it acknowledged the importance of its cultural legacy.

  • Plane crashes are much more likely to result from an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions.

  • In a typical crash, for example, the weather is poor - not terrible, necessarily, but bad enough that the pilot feels a little bit more stressed than usual.

  • In an overwhelming number of crashes, the plane is behind schedule, so the pilots in a hurry.

  • In 52 per cent of crashes, the pilot at the time of the accident has been awake for twelve hours or more, meaning that he is tired and not thinking sharply.

  • 44 per cent of the time, the two pilots have never flown together before, so they're not comfortable with each other.

  • The typical accident involves seven consecutive human errors.

  • The kinds of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and communication.

  • "The whole flight-deck design is intended to be operated by two people, and that operation works best when you have one person checking the other, or both people willing to participate", says Earl Weener. He was for many years chief engineer for safety at Boeing.

  • What was required of Ratwatte was that he communicates. Communicate not just in the sense of issuing commands but also by encouraging, cajoling, calming, negotiating and sharing information clearly and transparently.

  • The term used by linguists to describe what Klotz was engaging in is 'mitigated speech'. That refers to any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is getting said.

  • If you want your boss to do you a favour, you don't say, "I'll need this by Monday". You mitigate. You say, "Don't bother if it's too much trouble, but if you have a chance to look at this over the weekend, that would be wonderful".

  • A hint is the most complicated kind of request to decode and the easiest to refuse.

  • Mitigation explains one of the significant anomalies of plane crashes.

  • Planes are safer when the least experienced pilot is flying; it means the second pilot will not be afraid to speak up.

  • Every significant airline now has what's called 'Crew Resource Management' training. It's designed to teach junior crew members how to communicate clearly and assertively.

  • "On a simple level, one of the things we insist upon at my airline is that the first officer and the captain call each other by their first names", Ratwatte said. "We think that helps. It's just harder to say, 'Captain, you're doing something wrong', than to use a name."

  • "One thing I try to do is put myself a little down. I say to my copilots, 'I don't fly very often. Three or four times a month. You fly a lot more. If you see me doing something stupid, it's because I don't fly very often. So tell me. Help me out'. Hopefully, that helps them speak up."

  • The country that scores highest on the individualism end of that scale is the United States. Not surprisingly, the United States is also the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide its citizens with universal health care. At the opposite end of the scale is Guatemala.

  • Here are the top five' uncertainty avoidance' countries, according to Hofstede's database - that is, the countries most reliant on rules and plans and most likely to stick to procedure regardless of circumstances: (1) Greece. (2) Portugal. (3) Guatemala. (4) Uruguay. (5) Belgium. The bottom five - that is, the cultures best able to tolerate ambiguity - are: (49) Hong Kong. (50) Sweden, (51) Denmark. (52) Jamaica. (53) Singapore.

  • "In low-power distance index countries", Hofstede wrote: power is something of which power-holders are almost ashamed, and they will try to underplay. I once heard a Swedish (low PDI) university official state that he tried not to look powerful to exercise power. Leaders may enhance their informal status by renouncing formal symbols. In (low PDI) Austria, Prime Minister Bruno Kreisky sometimes took the streetcar to work. In 1974, I saw the Dutch (low PDI) prime minister, Joop den Uyl, on vacation with his motor home at a camping site in Portugal. Such behaviour of the powerful would be unlikely in high-PDI Belgium or France.

  • America is a classic low–power distance culture. When push comes to shove, Americans fall back on their American-ness. American-ness means that the air traffic controller gets thought of as an equal.

  • The Korean language has no fewer than six different levels of conversational address, depending on the relationship between the addressee and the addresser: formal deference, informal deference, blunt, familiar, intimate, and plain.

  • Western communication has what linguists call a 'transmitter orientation' - that is, it is considered the responsibility of the speaker to communicate ideas clearly and unambiguously.

  • Korea, like many Asian countries, is receiver oriented. It is up to the listener to make sense of what is getting said.

  • High-power distance communication works only when the listener can pay close attention. It works only if the two parties in a conversation have the luxury of time to unwind each other's meanings.

  • The prize for efficacy goes to the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, whose brevity grants Hong Kong residents a rocketing memory span of about ten digits.

  • The number system in English is highly irregular. Not so in China, Japan, and Korea. They have a logical counting system. Eleven is ten-one. Twelve is ten-two. Twenty-four is two-tens-four and so on.

  • Four-year-old Chinese children can count, on average, to forty. American children at that age can count only to fifteen, and most don't reach forty until they're five. By the age of five, in other words, American children are already a year behind their Asian counterparts in the most fundamental of math skills.

  • When it comes to math, in other words, Asians have a built-in advantage.

  • We sometimes think of being good at mathematics as an innate ability. You either have it, or you don't. But to Schoenfeld, it's not so much ability as attitude.

  • 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.

  • This idea - that effort must get balanced by rest - could not be more different from Asian notions about study and work.

  • A mind must get cultivated. But not too much, lest it be exhausted. And what was the remedy for the dangers of exhaustion? The long summer vacation - a peculiar and distinctively American legacy that has had profound consequences for students' learning patterns of the present day.

  • The reading scores of the poor kids go up by .26 points. When it comes to reading skills, poor kids learn nothing when school is not in session. The reading scores of the rich kids, by contrast, go up by a whopping 52.49 points.

  • The school year in the United States is, on average, 180 days long. The South Korean school year is 220 days long. The Japanese school year is 243 days long.

  • For its poorest students, America doesn't have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem, which the KIPP schools set out to solve.

  • Outliers are those who have been given opportunities and have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

  • We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth.

  • To build a better world, we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success.

  • If the government did not give its people opportunities, he warned, there would be trouble.

  • Jamaica has a vast Chinese population that has dominated the island's commercial life since the nineteenth century.

  • Superstar lawyers, math whizzes, and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances: some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky - but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.