Book Reviews

Anne Arundel County, Maryland


The story of success

By Malcolm Gladwell

Copyright 2008

Little, Brown, and Company, N.Y., NY


Book Review

March 24, 2009

How to be a Bill Gates.

Gladwell has made a strong argument for how success is achieved and that much of the extreme examples of success such as Bill Gates are simply the combination of perfect circumstances that put him in the right place at the right time.

Get Your 10,000 Hours. Gladwell has a theory of success pointing to chance as the major component where luck includes your date of birth, the opportunity to get in 10,000 hours of practice and experience in your area of expertise, and multiple positive circumstances that will almost ensure your success.

How the Beatles became the best.

He describes this as the Hamburg effect where the Beatles spent years working 8 hour days playing in front of crowds in Hamburg, Germany bars for a living before they became known as the fab-four. 

It helps to be a genius.

It is just as important to have the cultural legacy to negotiate and not accept failure as the author demonstrated with a story of a prodigy that dropped out of school as a result of his social shortcomings. 

Culture is Destiny.

Culture defines many of the traits necessary for success in specific environments.  In piloting aircraft, those pilots that came from cultures that have a high power index Gladwell demonstrates that subservience to authority caused an excessive rate of air crashes.  Recognizing this, Korean Air pilots were retrained to speak in English to change their cultural perspective and to be willing to challenge higher authorities when an obvious error occurred.   

Why the Hatfields and the McCoys feuded.

Culture determinants explain why the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia produce so many feuds among families?   Most of the inhabitants were Scot-Irish and came from a culture that was clannish and relied on blood relations and fierce loyalty.  These traits remain today and are shown by Gladwell in his explanations of the distinct cultures between the North and South in the United States.


Rice Makes You Good At Math.

Most people would think that Asians are so good at math is that they are smarter, though they are also known for hard work.  The author demonstrates that the hard work and focused and sustained effort common to these cultures is a trait derived from the rice paddies of Asia.  The same traits needed to work 360 days per year growing and harvesting rice happen to align perfectly with the attributes needed to excel in mathematics.

 Level the Playing Field

His argument is that to level the playing field it will be necessary to find the elements common to success and place them among all of competitors in the game of life.  He did give examples where schools can offer this type of environment to counter the cultural deficiencies of the lower classes.  His intentions are good, but might be challenged as insensitive by those subscribing cultural equality doctrines.


Finding the keys to success.

Use this book as a primer to help find the elements that you can use to help yourself or others find success.Hard work seems to be the key, and a lot of luck is what the author attributes necessary ingredient.

This is an interesting book and is worth the reading for the insights given to finding success.


Reprinted with permission given by the reviewer: Brent Herrick

Copyright 2009 –