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Wolf and Bruhn had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way: they had to get them to realize that they wouldn't be able to understand why someone was healthy if all they did was think about an individual's personal choices or actions in isolation. They had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town their families came from. They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.

In Outliers, I want to do for our understanding of
success what Stewart Wolf did for our understanding of health.

Introduction: Roseto Mystery

In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don't work. People don't rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kinds may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. 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 in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't.

Biologists often talk about the "ecology" of an organism; the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest no just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and rabbits and lumberjacks they were lucky enough to avoid? This is not a book about tall trees. It's a book about forests...

Chapter 01 : The Matthew Effect

The small initial advantage that the child born in the early part of the year has over the child born at the end of the year persists. It locks children into patterns of achievement and underachievement, encouragement and discouragement, that stretch on and on for years.

Chapter 01 : The Matthew Effect

Because we so profoundly personalize success, we miss opportunities to lift others onto the top rung. We make rules that frustrate achievement.
We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And, most of all, we become much too passive. 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.

Chapter 01 : The Matthew Effect

The striking thing about Ericsson's study is that he and his colleagues couldn't find any "naturals," musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any "grinds," people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggestes that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

Chapter 02: 10,000-hour Rule

To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fischer got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him nine years.) And what's ten years? Well, it's roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.

Chapter 02: 10,000-hour Rule

What did the Cs lack, though? Not something expensive or impossible to find; not something encoded in DNA or hardwired into the circuits of their brains. 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. The Cs were squandered talent. But they didn't need to be.

Chapter o4: The Trouble with Geniuses Part II

I hope by now that you are skeptical of this kind of story. Brilliant immigrant kid overcomes poverty and the Depression, can't get a job at the stuffy downtown law firms, makes it on his own through sheer hustle and ability. It's a rags-to-riches story, and everything we've learned so far from hockey players and software billionaires and the Termites suggests that success doesn't happen that way. Successful people don't do it alone. Where they come from matters. They're products of particular places and environments.

Chapter o5: The Three Lessons of Joe Flom

Think of how similar this is to the stories of Bill Joy and Bill Gates. Both of them toiled away in a relatively obscure field without any great hopes for worldly success. But then—boom!—the personal computer revolution happened, and they had their ten thousand hours in. They were ready. Flom had the same experience. For twenty years he perfected his craft at Skadden, Arps. Then the world changed and he was ready. He didn't triumph over adversity. Instead, what started out as adversity ended up being an opportunity.

"It's not that those guys were smarter lawyers than anyone else," Rif kind says. "It's that they had a skill that they had been working on for years that was suddenly very valuable."

Chapter o5: The Three Lessons of Joe Flom

Lewis Terman's genius study, as you will recall from the chapter about Chris Langan, was an investigation into how some children with really high IQs who were born between 1903 and 1917 turned out as adults. And the study found that there was a group of real successes and there was a group of real failures, and that the successes were far more likely to have come from wealthier families. In that sense, the Terman study underscores the argument Annette Lareau makes, that what your parents do for a living, and the assumptions that accompany the class your
parents belong to, matter.

There's another way to break down the Terman results, though, and that's by when the Termites were born. If you divide the Termites into two groups, with those born between 1903 and 1911 on one side, and those between 1912 and 1917 on the other, it turns out that the Terman failures
are far more likely to have been born in the earlier group.

The explanation has to do with two of the great cataclysmic events of the twentieth century: the Great Depression and World War II.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with. For a young would be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for a software programmer, or being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

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. 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? Fm guessing the former, because 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.

Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful. Being a teacher is meaningful.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.

The most important consequence of the miracle of the garment industry, though, was what happened to the children growing up in those homes where meaningful work was practiced. Imagine what it must have been like to watch the meteoric rise of Regina and Louis Borgenicht through the eyes of one of their offspring. They learned the same lesson that little Alex Williams would learn nearly a century later—a lesson crucial to those who wanted to tackle the upper reaches of a profession like law or medicine: if you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

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

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities, and at this point, after examining the lives of Bill Joy and Bill Gates, pro hockey players and geniuses, and Joe Flom, the Janklows, and the Borgenichts, it shouldn't be hard to figure out where the perfect lawyer comes from.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

there is a perfect birth date for a New York Jewish lawyer as well. It's 1930, because that would give the lawyer the benefit of a blessedly small generation. It would also make him forty years of age in 1970, when the revolution in the legal world first began, which translates to a healthy fifteen-year Hamburg period in the takeover business while the white-shoe lawyers lingered, oblivious, over their two-martini lunches. If you want to be a great New York lawyer, it is an advantage to be an outsider, and it is an advantage to have parents who did meaningful work, and, better still, it is an advantage to have been born in the early 1930s. But if you have all three advantages—on top of a good dose of ingenuity and drive—then that's an unstoppable combination. That's like being a hockey player born on January 1.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

the Katzes and the Rosens and the Liptons and the Wachtells and the Floms had something
that the Nordic type did not. Their world—their culture and generation and family history—gave them the greatest of opportunities.

Chapter 5: THE THREE LESSONS OF JOEFLOM

When one family fights with another, it's a feud. When lots of families fight with one another in identical little towns up and down the same mountain range, it's a pattern.

Chapter 6: Harlan, Kentucky

I realize that we are often wary of making these kinds of broad generalizations about different cultural groups—and with good reason. This is the form that racial and ethnic stereotypes take. We want to believe that we are not prisoners of our ethnic histories.

But the simple truth is that if you want to understand what happened in those small towns in Kentucky in the nineteenth century, you have to go back into the past—and not just one or two generations. You have to go back two or three or four hundred years, to a country on the other side of the ocean, and look closely at what exactly the people in a very specific geographic area of that country did for a living. The "culture of honor" hypothesis says that it matters where you're from, not just in terms of where you grew up or where your parents grew up, but in terms of where your great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents grew up and even where your great-great-great-grandparents grew up. That is a strange and powerful fact. It's just the beginning, though, because upon closer examination, cultural legacies turn out to be even stranger and more powerful than that.

Chapter 6: Harlan, Kentucky

Planes crashes rarely happen in real life the same way they happen in the movies. Some engine part does not explode in a fiery bang. The rudder doesn't suddenly snap under the force of takeoff. The captain doesn't gasp, "Dear God," as he's thrown back against his seat. The typical commercial jetliner—at this point in its stage of development—is about as dependable as a toaster. Plane crashes are much more likely to be the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions."'

Chapter 07: THE ETHNIC THEORY OF PLANE CRASHES

Our ability to succeed at what we do is powerfully bound up with where we're from,

Chapter 07: THE ETHNIC THEORY OF PLANE CRASHES

But the differences between the number systems in the East and the West suggest something very different—that being good at math may also be rooted in a group's culture.

Chapter 8: RICE PADDIES AND MATH TESTS

Historically, Western agriculture is "mechanically" oriented. In the West, if a farmer wanted to become more efficient or increase his yield, he introduced more and more sophisticated equipment, which allowed him to replace human labor with mechanical labor: a threshing machine, a hay baler, a combine harvester, a tractor. He cleared another field and increased his acreage, because now his machinery allowed him to work more land with the same amount of effort. But in Japan or China, farmers didn't have the money to buy equipment—and, in any case, there certainly wasn't any extra land that could easily be converted into new fields. So rice farmers improved their yields by becoming smarter, by being better managers of their own time, and by making better choices. As the anthropologist Francesca Bray puts it, rice agriculture is "skill oriented": if you're willing to weed a bit more diligently, and become more adept at fertilizing, and spend a bit more time monitoring water levels, and do a better job keeping the claypan absolutely level, and make use of every square inch of your rice paddy, you'll harvest a bigger crop. Throughout history, not surprisingly, the people who grow rice have always worked harder than almost any other kind of farmer.

That last statement may seem a little odd, because most of us have a sense that everyone in the premodern world worked really hard. But that simply isn't true. All of us, for example, are descended at some point from untergatherers, and many hunter-gatherers, by all accounts, had a pretty leisurely life. The !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, in Botswana, who are one of the last remaining practitioners of that way of life, subsist on a rich assortment of fruits, berries, roots, and nuts—in particular the mongongo nut, an incredibly plentiful and protein-rich source of food that lies thick on the ground. They don't grow anything, and it is growing things—preparing, planting, weeding, harvesting, storing—that takes time. Nor do they raise any animals. Occasionally, the male !Kung hunt, but chiefly for sport. All told, !Kung men and women work no more than about twelve to nineteen hours a week, with the balance of the time spent dancing, entertaining, and visiting family and friends. That's, at most, one thousand hours of work a year. (When a bushman was asked once why his people hadn't taken to agriculture, he looked puzzled and said, "Why should we plant,
when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?")

Or consider the life of a peasant in eighteenth-century Europe. Men and women in those days probably worked from dawn to noon two hundred days a year, which works out to about twelve hundred hours of work annually. During harvest or spring planting, the day might be longer. In the winter, much less. In The Discovery of France, the historian Graham Robb argues that peasant life in a country like France, even well into the nineteenth century, was essentially brief episodes of work followed by long periods of idleness.

Chapter 8: RICE PADDIES AND MATH TESTS

What redeemed the life of a rice farmer, however, was the nature of that work. It was a lot like the garment work done by the Jewish immigrants to New York. It was meaningful. First of all, there is a clear relationship in rice farming between effort and reward. The harder you work a rice field, the more it yields. Second, it's complex work. The rice farmer isn't simply planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. He or she effectively runs a small business, juggling a family workforce, hedging uncertainty through seed selection, building and managing a sophisticated irrigation system, and coordinating the complicated process of harvesting the first crop while simultaneously preparing the second crop.

And, most of all, it's autonomous. The peasants of Europe worked essentially as low-paid slaves of an aristocratic landlord, with little control over their own destinies. But China and Japan never developed that kind of oppressive feudal system, because feudalism simply can't work in a rice economy. Growing rice is too complicated and intricate for a system that requires farmers to be coerced and bullied into going out into the fields each morning. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, landlords in central and Southern China had an almost completely hands-off relationship with their tenants: they would collect a fixed rent and let farmers go about their business.

Chapter 8: RICE PADDIES AND MATH TESTS

But a belief in work ought to be a thing of beauty. Virtually every success story we've seen in this book so far involves someone or some group working harder than their peers. Bill Gates was addicted to his computer as a child. So was Bill Joy. The Beatles put in thousands of hours of practice in Hamburg. Joe Flom ground away for years, perfecting the art of takeovers, before he got his chance. 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.

Chapter 8: RICE PADDIES AND MATH TESTS

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. You master mathematics if you are willing to try. That's what Schoenfeld attempts to teach his students. 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. Put a bunch of Renees in a classroom, and give them the space and time to explore mathematics for themselves, and you could go a long way. Or imagine a country where Renee's doggedness is not the exception, but a cultural trait, embedded as deeply as the culture of honor in the Cumberland Plateau. Now that would be a country good at math.

Chapter 8: RICE PADDIES AND MATH TESTS

But in Western agriculture, the opposite is true. Unless a wheat- or cornfield is left fallow every few years, the soil becomes exhausted. Every winter, fields are empty. The hard labor of spring planting and fall harvesting is followed, like clockwork, by the slower pace of summer and winter. This is the logic the reformers applied to the cultivation of young minds. We formulate new ideas by analogy, working from what we know toward what we don't know, and what the reformers knew were the rhythms of the agricultural seasons. A mind must be 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 distinctive American legacy that has had profound consequences for the learning patterns of the students of the present day.

Chapter 9: Marita’s Bargain

That's the value of going to school 243 days a year. You have the time to learn everything that needs to be learned—and you have less time to unlearn it.

Chapter 9: Marita’s Bargain

How could that be a bad bargain? Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. If it were, Chris Langan would be up there with Einstein. 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. For hockey and soccer players born in January, it's a better shot at making the all-star team. For the Beatles, it was Hamburg. For Bill Gates, the lucky break was being born at the right time and getting the gift of a computer terminal in junior high. Joe Flom and the founders of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz got multiple breaks. They were born at the right time with the right parents and the right ethnicity, which allowed them to practice takeover law for twenty years before the rest of the legal world caught on. And what Korean Air did, when it finally turned its operations around, was give its pilots the opportunity to escape the constraints of their cultural legacy.

The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. 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. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a timesharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today? 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. If Canada had a second hockey league for those children born in the last half of the year, it would today have twice as many adult hockey stars. Now multiply that sudden flowering of talent by every field and profession. The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.

Chapter 9: Marita’s Bargain

It is not easy to be so honest about where we're from. It would be simpler for my mother to portray her success as a straightforward triumph over victimhood, just as it would be simpler to look at Joe Flom and call him the greatest lawyer ever—even though his individual achievements are so impossibly intertwined with his ethnicity, his generation, the particulars of the garment industry, and the peculiar biases of the downtown law firms. Bill Gates could accept the title of genius, and leave it at that. It takes no small degree of humility for him to look back on his life and say, "I was very lucky." And he was. The Mothers' Club of Lakeside Academy bought him a computer in 1968. It is impossible for a hockey player, or Bill Joy, or Robert Oppenheimer, or any other outlier for that matter, to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, "I did this, all by myself." Superstar lawyers and 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, of 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.

Epilogue

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