Outliers: What does it take to be an expert?

March 13, 2009

10,000 hours.  According to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers:  The Story of Success, that’s how many hours of practice it takes to become an expert.  Sigh.  As I started this book I wondered if I would feel deficient.  I don’t think I’ve put 10,000 hours into anything except maybe reading, and I’m far from an expert reader.  Gladwell’s thesis for the book is exploring why some people succeed and some never live up to their potential.  While the 10,000 hour bit is an interesting piece of trivia, it is not the entire point of Gladwell’s book.  What Gladwell does is destroy the idea that anyone is a self-made anything, arguing that geography, culture, economics and plain luck in some cases influence success.  However, underlying most stories of success is hard work.  Very few successes happen overnight, something that should be reassuring to those of us toiling away in the trenches. 

Most of this fairly slim book is intriguing and provocative, but I felt Gladwell’s last chapter or two were weak.  However, Outliers is an interesting read and will challenge your ideas of how a successful person is made.