In “Outliers” Gladwell Got It Wrong: What’s The Real Secret To Success?

by Merv Stevens

secret to success

In his book “Outliers: The Story of Success”, best selling author Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. He makes many case studies, including the likes of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, pop group The Beatles, Joseph Flom who built Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom into one of the most successful law firms in the world.

Why do some people achieve so much more than others? What makes an ordinary person an extreme overachiever? Gladwell concludes that success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

secret to success

Dave Dee, Chief Marketing Officer at Dan Kennedy’s and Bill Glazer’s GKIC marketing company disagrees with this conclusion. On his blog Dave discusses why the “10,000-hour rule” can end up being an expensive mistake and what Ericsson, Dan Kennedy, Dr. Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) and author Daniel Goleman all agree is the real secret to success.

Read on to find out more…

The Real Secret to Success: Why “Outliers” got it Wrong

Gladwell defines “outliers” as people who are exceptional people that do not fit into our normal understanding of achievement. These are people who are smart, rich and successful and operate beyond the statistical norm. He offers examples such as the Beatles and Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates.

The main theme throughout Outliers is the “10,000-hour rule” which says that to reach expert status you need 10,000 hours of study (which equates to roughly 5 years if you spend 40 hours per work on just the one skill you seek to master).

The “10,000 hour rule” is based on the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson, but according to Ericsson as documented in a new book by Daniel Goleman, it turns out that there is a big piece missing in Gladwell’s book.

In fact, it seems Gladwell got it wrong

In Goleman’s book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Ericsson says that, “You don’t get the benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.” Ericsson said that the secret to success is “deliberate practice” where you are guided by a mentor or coach that takes you through “well-designed training.”

In other words, the “real secret to succes” is that feedback matters and so does the focus, not just the hours as Gladwell states.

For example, if my son wants to improve his baseball swing, hitting the ball off a tee with the wrong mechanics over and over isn’t going to improve his batting average and make him the strongest hitter on the team. This seems logical, after all how can he become better if he’s practicing the wrong thing?

secret to success

But, if he has an expert batting coach who can identify what he’s doing wrong, who then gives him a plan of what he needs to concentrate on, and continues evaluating him, adjusting as necessary, then he can improve.

If you continue practicing without feedback or evaluation, what tends to happen is what Dan Kennedy calls “expensive experience.”

The only way to get a return-on-investment from “expensive experience” is to extract the “principle” by which you can make future decisions and prevent the same outcomes.

Dan Kennedy points out that “People with 30 years of experience are no better off than people with 3 months’ experience if they aren’t adept at identifying, extracting and using “principles.”

Dan adds, “I think it’s very, very, very rare for a successful person not to have had at least a couple of profoundly influential mentors in their lives. This tells you to seek them out, pay them if necessary; get coaching.”

In the book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz says you need “corrective feedback” because no one and nothing ever goes on a perfectly arrow-straight course to its target. Instead there are little zigs and zags and course corrections.

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Goleman agrees. He says that this is where amateurs differ from the most successful experts. Amateurs get good to a point. But the most successful people keep paying attention and actively concentrate on correcting what is not working and on refining things.

In his book, Goleman says, “The secret to smart practice boils down to focusing on the particulars of feedback from a seasoned coach.”

The real secret of success boils down to this. If you want to eliminate “expensive experience,” find an expert mentor or coach who will give you feedback so you can correctly identify the principle you need, apply it and continue to refine it until you reach excellence.

The Real Secret to Success: What does this mean to you?

You need to get a mentor, coach, mastermind group etc… that can look at what you’re doing and give you feedback on what changes you need to make in order to improve your online marketing skills, management, or a hundred other things, which will in turn allow you to make more money faster.

Because the truth is, you don’t need to wait 5 years to master something (and the flip side of that is even if you spend 5 years on a skill, without these corrections, you may never “master” that skill.)

In the coming year are you looking for the real secret to success and trying to find a mentor, coach or mastermind group? It can be found in the SFM & DEA. This company was created by Jay Kubassek and Stuart Ross, two of the smartest and most ethical entrepreneurs in the online marketing space.

They’ve designed a proprietary ‘Automated Business System' where you can earn Multiple Income Streams, by selling products and services you are fiercely proud of  (no existing experience required). You can find out more by Clicking Right Here!

Dave Dee is one of Dan Kennedy's most successful students and is GKIC's Chief Marketing Officer. You can find the original post at

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Merv Stevens Living Lifestyle by Design








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