Malcom Gladwell shows that stunning achievement isn't gained by one man who tenaciously labors daily to finally reach the pinnacle of success. While hard working is a very distinct trait of those who have it all, the back story provides much more information. There are a series of lucky breaks which give someone the opportunity to work really hard for a long amount of time. There is a whole team of people behind a person, providing them with rare opportunities. The culture of the family, the area of that the person lived in, and their experiences all have to come together to build a person who can become extraordinarily successful. Bill Gates didn't fly solo. He had generations before him pave the way.
Outliers goes through person after person, illustrating the same idea: success isn't an individual trait, it needs a big foundation. For example, consider the number of Jews in Law. How did this happen? Most would say its because of all their hard work, which is partially true. But Jews got lucky because most "respectable" lawyers weren't in the litigation business, it was something not done. Lawyers were also something of an elite club of old men, one in which Jews were not allowed. So Jews had to go into the litigation market as it was the only market they could make money in. Lo and Behold, a few years later the litigation market skyrocketed. Who were the experts when the market demanded litigation lawyers? The Jews.
And that is the short story of the whole book. Outliers, like Gladwell's two previous books, follows this template:
1) Start with the short personal story that glamorizes success.
2) Go into the gory details of the story.
3) Demonstrate some "aha!" connection.
Of course, lots of people claim Gladwell isn't accurate, or he cherry picks his stories. But Gladwell is excellent at anecdotes and story telling, making the book an easy, enjoyable read with tons of "oh interesting" moments. If you liked Blink and Tipping Point, you'll love Outliers. If you don't like Gladwell's style, you probably won't like this book. I adore Gladwell's presentation and writing style, and Outliers is just thought provoking enough to make you rethink success, intelligence and hard work, all the while being a delightful read.