25 Malcolm Gladwell quotes on leadership, success, and 10,000 hours

Voted one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people, Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist based out of New York.

Gladwell is known all around the world for his five bestselling books:

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000); Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking (2005); Outliers: The Story of Success (2008); What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventures (2009); and David and Goliath (2013).

Gladwell is not just an author, he is also journalist and speaker.

He constantly travels to talk with audiences around the world.

His works and articles are frequently used in the fields of sociology, social psychology, and psychology.

Searching for some good Malcolm Gladwell quotes?

With thousands of Malcolm Gladwell quotes all over the internet, it was tough for us to boil it down to 25.

Here’s our latest collection. Enjoy!

Also, check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily wisdom. 

See the rest of our quote database for even more inspirational ideas and thoughts.

Malcolm Gladwell quotes on practice and success

1. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Practice never stops. Practice is ongoing. Being able to maintain intense practice over time is one of the small distinctions that separate the good from the great.

2. “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Power: Knowing is not enough. Understanding how ‘it’ fits within the context of what you’re doing, how it applies – is the key. It’s great to know, but seek to understand and apply.

3. “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: As mentioned, seek to understand. When we think we know without properly understanding, we can rush to judgments, explanations, and conclusions that are not appropriate. Sometimes, we don’t need an immediate explanation. We have to wait until there is more information, or a different perspective, to get a better grip of what we just heard, learned, or saw.

4. “Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: We are from our roots. Whether we had an outstanding childhood or the exact opposite, we can use our past and deep scars to propel us to wherever we want to go. We are our past – but we are NOT a slave to our past.

5. “….. it would be interesting to find out what goes on in that moment when someone looks at you and draws all sorts of conclusions.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: We are making snap judgments all the time. Where do they come from? Are those judgments and conclusions really yours? Are they your family’s? Or your neighborhood’s? Or are they from the media? Before we think we ‘know’ something, let’s first ask: where is this conclusion coming from?

6. “Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” – Malcolm Gladwell

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Everyday Application: Find the balance between making a well-informed, strategic decision, and going with your gut. Intuition is a powerful force, as is logic and reasoning. Use a little of both when making a choice.

7. “Emotion is contagious.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Whether it’s with your family, in the workplace, in your school, or organization, be the most enthusiastic person you know. People may not tell you, but you never know who you’re inspiring.

8. “Achievement is talent plus preparation.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: No one can control how many opportunities you will have. But you can fully control how hard you work and how much you practice. In order to be a winner, you must prepare to win!

9. “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: In the midst of your hard work, make sure you’re working on the right things. Work hard on tasks that give meaning, purpose, and the desired results for your life or current project.

10. “Insight is not a light bulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Insight comes from asking, ‘why did this happen?’. Our insight is so delicate because it’s very easy to accept events, people, and information at face value. It’s easy to NOT connect the dots. It’s easy to not ask why, and believe that’s just the way it is. It’s easy to be on autopilot – and there is absolutely no insight there!

Malcolm Gladwell quotes about 10,000 hours and work

11. “Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Autonomy matters because we all want to be able to make choices for ourselves. Complexity is satisfying if you like a challenge and pushing your brain to think outside the box. We are humans, therefore, fostering a connection is paramount. When these things combine in the workplace, it is very rewarding.

12. “It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-old’s who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call ‘accumulative advantage’.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: This might be true for the majority, but remember that just because this is a real phenomena, doesn’t mean it has to define you. Maybe you aren’t the richest, smartest, or biggest, but you have something special going for you! What is that? How can you make the most use of it?

13. “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” – Malcolm Gladwell

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Everyday Application: Bring passion and fire to your ideas, trends, or social behaviors. Encourage others to rally with you. Individually, we might be unable to make big impacts, but banded together we are an unstoppable force.

14. “Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Engage with people! Whether you write, paint, sing, or whatever it is you do, engagement is critical. When people are engaged with your message they will fight for your cause. They will encourage others to come along for the journey as well.

15. “It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us. Being a teacher is meaningful.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Money can not buy happiness. Granted, money matters and we need it to live, but for many of us it is not the biggest motivating factor in our lives. Figure out what leaves you feeling fulfilled? 

16. “In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: What have you spent 10,000 hours working on? At 40 hours a week, it would take you 4.8 years to be considered an expert in your career field. That may seem like a long time, but success takes work. 10,000 hours really isn’t that much though in the grand scheme of things! 

17. “…If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: You can do anything you set your mind to. If you are willing to put in the work, say no to things that do not get you closer to what you want, and practice delayed gratification, you will get there! Check out this article on how delayed gratification is a necessary skill required to shape your world.

18. “Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: When you look at someone who is at the top of their game, it can be easy to be envious and think they got “lucky.” However, what you see of their success is just the result of their hard work. While working and struggling to reach your goals you might wonder if all this hard work is worth it. It is, and it is going to be what separates you from everyone else.

19. “The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?” – Malcolm Gladwell

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Everyday Application: We need to nurture the dreams of our youth by giving them opportunities. We do not have to tell our kids that they will never be famous YouTuber. Let them try! They might ‘never’ be what they think they want to be at this moment, but they will learn that their dreams matter. They will learn to work hard and take risks. The truth is that they can also be anything they set their minds to! 

20. “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Everyday Application: Success might look random, like someone was “in the right place at the right time.” However, every action that person took led them to that moment. Maybe their predictable pattern was being confident enough to meet new people, and talk about their goals. Maybe they make a habit of creating opportunities for themselves, or saying yes when an opportunity presents itself. Instead of worrying about when that magic moment will happen for you, focus on what you can control.

More Malcolm Gladwell quotes and sayings

21. “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year and fails to make his family rich.” – Malcolm Gladwell

22. “I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing…It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.” – Malcolm Gladwell

23. “To be someone’s best friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting.” – Malcolm Gladwell

24. “Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way…We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – sometimes – we’re better off that way.” – Malcolm Gladwell

25. “In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Which of these Malcolm Gladwell quotes is your favorite?

Despite commanding a large speaking fee ($45,000 as of 2005), he still enjoys making some speeches for free.

Malcolm Gladwell has remained humble in his achievements, although of course, he has met critics of his own.

If these Malcolm Gladwell quotes inspired you in any way, don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comment section below.

Check out Malcolm Gladwell on MasterClass where he teaches writing.

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