What are some arguments Malcolm Gladwell makes in Outliers: The Story of Success?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell strives to debunk the myth that people are successful because they have made themselves successful, all through time and effort. Instead, Gladwell wants to argue that we "don't rise from nothing." Instead, those who rise in power do so because they have benefited from "hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies" that permit them to work and understand the world in ways that other people without their benefits are unable to.

Gladwell centers his argument around what he calls "The Matthew Effect," which is a reference to Matthew 25:29 that states, "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." Gladwell sees the above passage as a statement that whoever already has benefits will find it very easy to gain even more benefits, while those who have no benefits will continue to have nothing.

Using "The Matthew Effect," he strives to show how things that people have no control over, like their birth dates and parentage, directly impact the success in their lives. He gives us his first examples in his first chapter, which he uses to argue the advantage of birth dates. For example, he demonstrates that statistics show the majority of the most successful professional Canadian hockey players are born in the winter months, between January and March, whereas fewer successful hockey players are born in the summer, between July and September.

From there, he continues to give us more and more examples of how uncontrollable advantageous situations lead to prosperity.