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...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, what town their families came from.


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.

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.


Achievement is talented plus preparation.

...Their research suggests 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.

That late-born prodigy doesn't get chosen for the all-star team as an eight-year-old because he's too small. So he doesn't get the extra practice. And without that extra practice, he has no chance of hitting ten thousand hours by the time the professional hockey teams start looking for players. And without the ten thousand hours under his belt, there is no way he can ever master the skills necessary to play at the top level.

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

Bill Gates got to do real-time programming as an eight-grader in 1968.


"Knowledge of a boy's IQ is of little help if you are faced with a formful of clever boys."

The relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn't seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.


...He grew more and more emotionally unstable, and then, in an act so strange that to this day no one has properly made sense of it, Oppenheimer took some chemicals from the laboratory and tried to poison his tutor.

Would Oppenheimer have lost his scholarship at Reed? Would he have been unable to convince his professors to move his classes to the afternoon? Of course not. And that's not because he was smarter than Chris Langan. It's because he possessed the kind of savvy that allowed him to get what he wanted from the world.

To Sternbeg, 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."

To use the technical term, general intelligence and practical intelligence are "orthogonal": the presence of one doesn't imply the presence of the other. You can have lost 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.

...But social savvy is knowledge. It's a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from somewhere, and the place where we seem to get these kinds of attitudes and skills is form our families.

...What Lareau found, however, is something different. There were only two parenting "philosophies," and they divided almost perfectly along class lines. The wealthier raised their kids one way, and the poorer parents raised their kids another way.

The wealthier parents were heavily involved in their children's free time, shuttling them from one activity to the next, quizzing them about their teachers and coaches and teammates. One of the well-off children Lareau followed played on a baseball team, two soccer teams, a swim team, and a basketball team in the summer, as well as playing in an orchestra and taking piano lessons.

That kind of intensive scheduling was almost entirely absent from the lives of the poor children. Play for them wasn't soccer practice twice a week. It was making up games outside with their siblings and other kids in the neighbourhood. What a child did was considered by his or her parents as something separate from the adult world and not particularly consequential.

If the wealthier children were doing poorly at school, the wealthier parents challenged their teachers...The poor parents by contrast, are intimidated by authority, they react passively and stay in the background.

Lareau calls 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 their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own.

By contrast, the working-class and poor children were characterized by "an emerging sense of distance, distrust, and constraint." They didn't know how to get their way, or how to "customize"—using Lareau's wonderful term—whatever environment they were in, for their best purposes.

when we talk about the advantages of class, Lareau argues, this is in large part what we mean. Alex Williams is better off than Katie Brindle because he's wealthier and because he goes to a better school, but also because—and perhaps this is even more critical—the sense of entitlement that he has been taught is an attitude perfectly suited to succeeding in the modern world.

"i found that if i go to bed with a question on my mind, all i have to do is concentrate on the question before i go to sleep and i virtually always have the answer in the morning. sometimes i realize what the answer is because i dreamt it and i remember. other times i just feel the answer, and i start typing and the answer emerges onto the page."


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

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 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.

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.

hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.


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, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behaviour that we cannot make sense of our world without them.

so far in OUTLIERS we've seen that success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you are born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were all make a significant difference in how well you do in the world.

*don't care enough about the rest of this book to write up the notes...

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