BOOK Review: Gladwell’s OUTLIERS

By Rashi Mittal Nair
Founder, Brand Ripples (

Gladwell says me being a South Indian Entrepreneur is why I lose at Monopoly.    


Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers' goes on to tell us that people that are really successful in life, or the real 'geniuses' that stand out from the rest, are not really so, out of sheer talent but due to a combination of several other factors (as well). At a recent game of monopoly with friends (where I lost terribly), I felt like his words came to life! 


1.) The Matthew Effect & 10,000 Hour Rule: 

Malcolm says that when you are born makes a big difference (literally). The month matters in terms of entrance dates into colleges/schools. And given that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a skill, the lucky ones end up getting access to perfecting skills earlier on in life. (eg. Bill gates got access to computers earlier than everyone else.)

Monopoly Connect:

The person who rolls the dice first, has a head start and huge advantage of winning, because that increases their chances of landing on un-purchased property. It wasn't me... it was the Matthew Effect. :) 


2.) The Trouble with Geniuses:

Malcolm says Intellect and Achievement are not perfectly Correlated. The difference in intellect (IQ scores) between individuals may matter up to a certain point, but after that, the incremental difference is not significant anymore. For example, when choosing a basketball team, the height difference between a 4ft and 6 ft guy matters, the difference between a 6 and a 6.5 ft guy might still matter, but between a 6.5 and 7.5 guy it might matter less. After that, you start needing other skills like agility, foot movement etc... It’s the same thing with intellect. After a certain IQ level, you need other skills like creativity, emotional intelligence etc... So just because their IQ was 400 doesn't mean they are a genius. That’s like saying someone who was 9ft would be better at basketball than someone who was 6.5 ft. 

Monopoly Connect:

It’s not necessary that the person perceived to be the smartest at the table, is likely to win at the game of monopoly (if people are to be making bets on the game). It takes far more than strategy or intelligence. It’s also about relationships, patience, negotiation capability, the ability to bluff and much more. Monopoly if played well is about making deals. A north Indian is likely to make far more deals, than a South Indian. (Yes, I'm stereotyping here). But even if they think a deal hasn't gone right, a north Indian would stand up to it, vs. a south Indian who would probably just let it slide as 'what’s between friends', its just a game. Such insights are priceless when placing bets on a 'genius'. 


3.) The Three Lessons of Joe Flom

a.) Stroke of Luck:  It's not like Bill gates was hoping for world success. He worked away for years and years at something that suddenly became very valuable. 

Monopoly Connect:  Buying a cheap property nobody wants, and then suddenly everyone keeps landing on it (luck). 

b.) Demographic luck . It’s not fair to say, his father failed at the business, but his son made it succeed. There is a context to everything. His father faced the Great Depression. His son saw a rising economy. 

Monopoly Connect:  It may not be fair to compare two victories because one may be on a UK version board, and the other on a Indian version board which a player may not have been familiar with, thus not knowing which properties were lucrative to buy. There is context to everything. 

c.) Struggled Luck:  If you work hard enough and use your imagination you can shape the world to your desires. Malcom shares the story of a man who came to NY City with nothing, saw that nobody was wearing aprons, and started making them with one sewing machine. He is today a global garment industry leader. 

Monopoly Connect:  Even if you end up not getting early success, if you focus on what you do have, and are innovative enough, there really are ways in which you can trade with other people and work your way back up again. 


5.) Cultural legacies are powerful forces. 

Our ability to question 'authority' comes from our bringing up. People from wealthy backgrounds are taught at an early age that it is okay to question authority, stand up against things that are not going your way and ask for a different course of action. 

India Connect:  In India, it may not always be wealth, but also a North and South cultural difference. (the East being closer to the South in its practices). The Farmers and Christian Missionaries that took over South and East India seem to have influenced the people to be more submissive and service oriented. 

People in the north however, were influenced by the 'Aryan' (warrior) race, and thus are far more aggressive in nature.


Why I Lost

So I played a game of monopoly. and as you can guess. Lost. Terribly if I may add. Malcolm Gladwell helps explain why the odds were against me to begin with. The only reason I lost was because...

a.) I was last in the circle to play my turn

b.) Had to meet a client early morning, so had to hurry up the game  

c.) I was raised in South India!!

d.) It was a UK version board

e.) The loss doesn’t say anything about my intellect.

f.) And Other people were just plain lucky. :) :) 


In a Nut Shell

Outliers is about trying to express how there is so much more to success than just one individuals effort. And how one needs to be grateful to the contributions of many more people & circumstances that have led to your success.  It's a book meant to make us all a little more humble than we might be about our own achievements.  Or look at the 'successful people' and realize that there was so much more context behind their success. 


It should also help make the less successful more inspired.  Because sometimes, like monopoly, when you are playing the game of life, you will lose . Because its natural to do so from time to time.  And its important to understand that it may not always be a reflection of who we are, but a reflection of several other factors that contribute to the failure .