Why Outliers: Story Of Success, Got It Wrong

By: Dave Dee on: December 26th, 2013 22 Comments

It was a number one best seller on The New York Times and The Globe and Mail.

It held this position for eleven consecutive weeks.

Written by Malcolm Gladwell, his non-fiction book, Outliers: The Story of Success, examines the factors that contribute to success.

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 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?

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.

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.”

It 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.

So 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 copywriting, marketing, 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.)

As you look to the new year see what opportunities are around you for getting a mentor or coach or joining a mastermind group.  GKIC has local chapters in many cities that you can join where dozens of GKIC members congregate each month in order to guide each other to success.

While GKIC has incredible mentoring, coaching and mastermind programs that you can take advantage of, even if you don’t do it through GKIC, do it somewhere if you’re serious about making the big leaps in your business, rather than simply learning by “expensive experience.”

P.S. – Get “The 10 Rules to Transforming Your Small Business into an Infinitely More Powerful Direct Response Marketing Business” for FREE. Click here to claim your customer-getting, sales-boosting tactics.


Dave Dee is one of Dan Kennedy's most successful students. Dave saw Dan speak over 16 years ago at one of the Peter Lowe Success Events when he was a struggling magician. He bought Magnetic Marketing and as you will hear when he tells you his story, his life changed in less than 90 days. Dave became a very serious student of Dan's by attending my seminars, joining his coaching group and most of all from implementing what he learned. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.gkic.com

22 Responses

  1. Dave there are many excellent points made here however there is still much to learn. Gladwell did not “get it wrong” as you stated, Knowledge indeed is ONE of the Key Components of Mastering anything….what you are talking about is Applied Knowledge which I think if you read Gladwell again this is implied.

    As far as Mentors I BELIEVE this is a Key Ingredient of Success…the problem in Today’s Internet Age is finding the Right One….it seems EVERYBODY is an Expert and credentials are often “exaggerated”.

    I wish you continued success and a Very Prosperous 2014!!!


  2. daniel Levy says:

    I would like to talk to someone about your program

  3. Gerald Guard says:

    Thanks Tremendously Dave. 100 percent agreed!

  4. I don’t know why I thought marketing was different than anything else I’ve studied. When I was trying to improve my guitar playing I hired a guitar teacher. When I was studying martial arts I hired an instructor. I’ve been learning marketing mainly from the Internet. Your post makes me realize that I should seek out mentors who can help me.

  5. My mentor in legal casework was a combination of Columbo and Mike Tyson. Studying law books was no substitute for the luve field training that made the work of pretrial preparation go so much faster and more sensibly.

    Thanks Dave mentors can cut your learning curve in half. They can steer you back on.course. their wisdom and experience can save you costly mistakes.

    Great advice, Dave Dee! Boys down to the good old apprentice system.

    Still viable!

  6. Great observation ! Mentors are the key to Mastery in any subject of life.. How can we get to a place we have never been ?

  7. I think that you missed the point of the chapter. Gladwell NEVER alleged that it was only the number of hours that counted toward mastery. Nor did he say that feedback and focus were unimportant. Quite the contrary in his examples of Mozart (and elite pianists), Bill Joy, Bill Gates (and pals), Bobby Fischer, hockey players and the Beatles. Gladwell points out that all of them were extremely focused. They all benefited from the feedback. His point was that all of these people benefited tremendously from having the OPPORTUNITY to have the 10,000 hours available to them to practice and hone their craft…. because it is an enormous amount of time.”Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” Gladwell also pointed to the importance of having support and encouragement in order to be an outlier… in short, an excellent case for coaching.

  8. Brian says:


    Great article if you live in a bubble. Nice slicing and dicing of Gladwell’s findings to push people into buying into a teacher/mentor. Preferably GKIC’s sales funnel?

    Honestly, Who keeps going for 5 years without feedback? Gladwell’s feedback hinges on action. Your feedback – the feedback you mention in this article – hinges on learning from a mentor. Real world experience is a far better teacher than listening to somebody’s seminar over and over again and gaining NO experience.

    Too many people turn to a mentor way too early, and never take REAL action. No mention of that in your article, here. But hey, that’s how you guys make your money – so why would anyone expect anything different from your articles.

    I’ll side with Gladwell on this.


    • Mike Stodola Admin says:

      Brian – Appreciate your response. I will ask though…if you were starting a new business today would you honestly rather “go-it-alone” and learn from your actions instead of having someone like Dan Kennedy or for that matter anyone who has started dozens of successful multimillion dollars businesses on your side teaching you every step of the way? I’d take a person who has been there and done that, but you’re free to do it your way too.

  9. Mike says:

    On the “10,000 hour rule”: reminds me also of what an old Sales Manager of mine once told me –

    “Staying in the one sales job for ten years does not give you ten years of sales experience but one year of sales experience repeated ten times over”.

    I’m thankful I had career opportunities to work across a number of different sales and marketing roles in vastly differing industry types (spanning 25+ years).

  10. Nathan says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been interested in reading this book but was unsure if it was worth the money. I like the idea of a 10,000 hour rule pretty it seems pretty daunting.

  11. Peter Jessen says:

    — You cannot not be mentored, so choose your mentors well.
    — Babies and toddlers are actively mentoring their parents.
    — The worst mentoring is that we refuse to be aware of, as we can’t not be mentored.
    — All are mentored, either assigned or chosen or taken over through stealth.
    — Stealth mentors are conscious or not conscious of it (all the more reason to be watchful).
    — We are born to our first set of mentors.
    — Our siblings and extended family are more sets of mentors.
    — K-12 assigns us a series of mentors, some OK, but too many teachers don’t know they are mentors (unconscioius stealth) and thus do a poor job as: slogan again: you cannot not be mentored.
    — K-12 coaches (in or not in a school, are mentors and know it; its just that too many haven’t figured out how to be good mentors.
    — Every boss is a mentor directly or indirectly.
    — Secretaries and assistants are always trying to be the boss’ mentor.
    — Madison Avenue is filled with little offices of retired execs turned business mentors for hire to replace internal mastermind like groups, as too many feel if the boss asks “how” he shouldn’t be boss and they undermine him.
    — Great sales teams bring in what I call fly over mentors: motivators every 3-4 months (depending on when the sales start to lag) to spike/juice/reanimate the sales force.
    — 3rd party experts that back up what you are trying to motivate are priceless.
    — The best theorist of mentoring (mastermind group) remains Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich,” as learned from Andrew Carnegie, then the richest man and his “secret,” a secret he asked Hill to write up. “Think and Grow Rich” is a distillation of the 26 volumes Hill wrote on it.
    — Today’s best practitioner and teacher of mentoring (mastermind group) is Dan Kennedy.
    — The Nightengale-Conant library brings audio tapes of mentoring.
    — Our local GKIC chapter includes the mastermind group mentality in our discussions to help mentor each other: enormously helpful. The “hot seat” is an “aha moment seat.”
    — Self assigned reading and study is mandatory and imperative to get the best results from working with a mentor and to get the most out of participating in a mastermind group.
    — Be mentored AND BE a mentor.

  12. […] Dave Dee’s article, Why Outliers: Story Of Success Got It Wrong, he discussed how having a mentor is a key difference between overwhelming success and […]

  13. Thank you Sir Dave Dee, fantastic article.

  14. Great article. When I was in my twenties I was mentored by the best in the world in his field of expertise. From what I learned from him I became an expert, earned lots of money, wrote two books in the field, and became well known. To people who say, “I have 30 years experience in xxx. ” Most of them have one year experience, if that, and have not learned anything of value in the following 30 years.

  15. This information is so valuable too all entrepreneurs . I loved reading it ! To everyone’s success in 2014 !

  16. […] 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 http://www.GKIC.com. […]

  17. […] Enlist the help of an experienced mentor and/or coach. In Dave Dee’s article, Why Outliers: Story of Success, Got It Wrong, several success experts including psychologist Anders Ericsson, author of Psycho-Cybernetics Dr. […]

  18. […] both this study and this book got some criticism and inaccuracy pointed out (study criticism and book criticism […]

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