Monday, November 1, 2010

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The full title of this book is Outliers, The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell had also written another book that I have read called The Tipping Point. I am currently reading his book called Blink. His books are very easy reads and you always learn something.

One of the most interesting subjects that he talks about is what he calls the 10,000 hour rule. What it is, is that to get really good at anything, you must spend 10,000 hours on it. This would be approximately 8 hours a day, every day for about 3 ½ years.

The first person he talks about his Bill Joy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, which was one of the critical players in the computer revolution. He started at the University of Michigan in 1971 and came across their new Computer Center. He started at this university when computer terminals and time-sharing systems came in. The University of Michigan’s new Computer Center had the latest. The center was open 24 hours a day and he lived near the center and spent a lot of his time there. The center gave out fixed amount of time on their computers, but then some of the kids figured out how to get unlimited amount of time on the systems. This was how he got to spend a phenomenal amount of time programming.

In this chapter, he also talks about the Beatles. They got invited to Hamburg. In Hamburg, you did not just play for one hour sessions; you had to play for eight hours. The played at a club seven nights a week and they played almost non-stop until after midnight. On their first trip, they played 106 nights for five or more hours. By the time of their success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1200 times.

If you do not know who Bill Joy is, you will certainly know who Bill Gates is. He went to a private school called Lakeside. There was a Mothers’ club that raised money to put in a computer terminal. It had a direct time-sharing link to a mainframe in downtown Seattle. Bill Gates got to do real-time programming as an eighth grader in 1968. When the Mothers’ Club ran out of money to pay for the kids computer club’s programming, they got an offer to test out a company’s software programs in exchange for free programming time.

All these people may have been very brilliant, but they also got opportunities to put in huge amount of time at the things for which they got famous. They got opportunities and they took advantage of their opportunities. There is, of course, much more to this book. For book reviews, see the New York Times review at and Also, see a Social Capital blog at

Malcolm Gladwell has his own site at On this site, he talks about his three books of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink. Also on this site, he has his New Yorker magazine articles, his Blog, and his biography. Wikipedia has an article on him at and he is at TED at He is also on YouTube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See

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