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Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass wasn’t what I expected (MasterClass Review 2020)

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I took Malcolm Gladwell’s writing class on MasterClass.

To be completely honest with you, it wasn’t what I expected.

I’m a writer, and I thought this class would teach me to become a better writer. I was hoping to learn about writing in a way that others want to read. I also wanted to learn about structuring my books, developing my ideas, and the publishing industry more broadly.

Malcolm Gladwell does cover these things. But his class is about something far deeper.

Let me explain in this review of Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass class.

What you’ll learn in “Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing”


Malcolm Gladwell is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished non-fiction writers in the world. He’s an award-winning journalist, a bestselling author, and also a public speaker.

I think for aspiring writers, people are interested in his class on MasterClass to learn more about how he weaves intellectual facts into the “pop” perspectives that come through his books.

You see this in his books, Blik, Outliers, and The Tipping Point. He is a genius at taking complex ideas and perspectives and making them accessible, inspiring people from all walks of life.

The question is:

How does he do that? Can it be taught in a class?

The quick answer is that you will learn all of this in the class. Later in this article, I’ll explain exactly what you’ll find inside the class, from the lesson overviews to the workbook.

But first, I want to touch on something a little unexpected in this class.

Malcolm Gladwell’s class is as much about his philosophy of life as it is about learning how to write.

He teaches some very profound insights about the human condition that got me deep.

First, I want to share some of those insights. I think it’s the best way to see what’s truly unique about this MasterClass.

My key takeaway from Malcolm Gladwell’s class on writing

“The act of writing about others is not a trivial act. It’s not entertainment. It’s not a distraction. You don’t read nonfiction for the same reason that you chew gum or watch the Kardashians on television. You read it because you’re in search of something powerful and fundamental about what it means to be a better person.”

According to Malcolm Gladwell, writing is a profound act. You write to inhabit someone else’s world. You represent that world and present it to the reader so that they, too, can inhabit another world.

Gladwell talks at length about his philosophy of life.

He believes that life is very limiting if you are unable to empathize with the experiences of others.

Writing, at its best, is about transcending one’s own experience of life. It’s an empathetic act.

I love this about Malcolm Gladwell’s class. While taking the class, I realized that I’ve had quite a narcissistic approach to my writing. I have written mainly for myself.

But Gladwell inspired me to step outside my own experience and write for others.

This sounds simple, but I can tell you that when you take the class, it comes across in a very profound way. It shook me to my core and caused me to rethink my approach to writing.

Gladwell encourages you to see writing as part of your higher purpose in life. Watch the trailer to get a good idea of what you’ll find inside the MasterClass.


A closer look at Malcolm Gladwell’s writing class

Now, down to business. What will you get from the Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing? Here’s an overview:

  • 24 Video lessons between 3 to 20 minutes each.
  • 100% exclusive content and an in-depth course on non-fiction writing.
  • A downloadable class workbook containing lesson recaps, class assignments, and supplemental materials.
  • The Office Hours features, a chance to ask questions to Malcolm Gladwell himself, as well as get critique on your work.
  • Access to The Hub, MasterClass expansive community of students and masters.

So what’s inside Malcolm Gladwell’s writing course?

The Lessons


At first glance, the lesson plan seems to cover a lot. There are video lessons covering everything from establishing an effective and interesting narrative, some useful tools for engagement, to Malcolm Gladwell’s personal guiding principles on research. All, in all, it looks like a well-rounded course.

The video quality of each lesson is impeccable. Production-wise, it looks expensive. But what makes it great is that each angle is shot dynamically – the changing points of view are immersive and helps you keep your attention to the mentor. It’s effective in a way that keeps you listening.

Gladwell’s teaching style is conversational – almost unscripted. It’s as if you are talking and exchanging ideas with a friend. He throws in anecdotes and rapid-fire gold nuggets about writing you’ve never thought of before, at least for me.

Course Workbook

Every video lesson is also accompanied by a workbook. In the workbook, you’ll see lesson recaps, additional reading suggestions, and assignments you can take to practice your newfound knowledge.

These workbooks are incredibly helpful. I suggest doing them as you go through the course. It’s a great way to implement the techniques you learned from Gladwell. Plus, who knows? You might even get a chance of getting a critique on one of your assignments.

Lesson Discussion

Another interesting feature is the Lesson Discussion, which is a comment section for students to express their insights and exchange ideas. If you’re feeling up to it, you should browse through these comments and participate in the discussions. You might connect with like-minded individuals and even get some additional spark of inspiration.

The Office Hours

Office Hours are probably one of the most exciting things about this course, especially if you’re a big Malcolm Gladwell fan. MasterClass takes it further and gives its students a chance to get up close and personal to each mentor with the Office Hours.

Here, you can upload a question in video or text format for Gladwell to answer. You might also get a chance to get personal feedback on your assignments.

The Hub

Lastly, when you enroll in MasterClass, you’ll also get access to its community, The Hub. It’s a MasterClass version of a forum, where you can start or join threads about the courses you take.

Honestly, it’s not as active as I expected it to be. After all, MasterClass is popular in the online education industry. But that’s to be expected. The online learning community is not as interactive as it is.

However, you’ll be pleased to know that the writing section is full of ideas and prompts that you might find interesting. That’s always worth a look.

What exactly is MasterClass?

MasterClass is an online education platform offering a variety of courses, mostly in the creative sphere.

MasterClass markets on the “celebrity experience.” They offer courses taught by celebrated professionals. The best of the best.

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How much is MasterClass?

You have two options.

  • A one-time payment of $90 per MasterClass. This includes full, lifetime access to all video lessons, workbook, and office hours.
  • A $180 All-Access Pass that allows unlimited access to every MasterClass, including all its features, for one year.

Seems steep? That’s okay. MasterClass is willing to give you a money-back guarantee for whatever option you choose. If within 30 days you don’t like any of your lessons, you’ll get a full refund – no questions asked.

Should you get the All-Access Pass?

This isn’t my first MasterClass course. I have gotten the All-Access pass to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can. A lot of our readers reached out to ask if they should, too.

To be honest, it comes down to one thing: Are you interested in taking 3 or more MasterClass courses?

The best way to determine if this one-year unlimited MasterClass access is suited for you is to take a look at the list of MasterClass courses. See if you are interested in 3 or more of the mentors. MasterClass offers courses in a wide array of fields from amazing celebrity professionals. You’ll likely find more valuable and interesting courses than the one you were initially interested in.

If that’s the case, then it’s a bargain that is too good to pass up. I highly recommend taking the All-Access Pass.


What I liked most about Malcolm Gladwell’s class on writing

“The act of writing about others is not a trivial act. It’s not entertainment. It’s not a distraction. You don’t read nonfiction for the same reason that you chew gum or watch the Kardashians on television. You read it because you’re in search of something powerful and fundamental about what it means to be a better person.”

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Will you learn from Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass? Yes.

Here are the things I loved about the course.

1. It will make you a better writer

If there’s a course out there that will make you instantly become a better writer, it’s this MasterClass.

Malcolm Gladwell dishes out things you can immediately apply to your writing, right now. Even the anecdotes he shares, if you listen closely, result in paradigm shifts in your writing process.

He’ll make you think (multiple times,) “Why didn’t I think of that before?”

And he does so in such a humble, infectious way. He’s not egoistic about it. He simply wants to share what he knows, and it’s endearing.

The course is full of the richest pieces of advice you’ll ever get. Here are my favorites:

  • You don’t have to end your story perfectly. Sometimes there is beauty in a question mark.
  • The best way to draw your readers from the start is to create a puzzle for them to unravel in the end, but don’t give them a perfect solution.
  • Don’t interview a source looking to “find” anything interesting in what they have to say. Effective interviewing is all about convincing them to find themselves interesting – and you’ll hear gold.
  • Interesting is better than perfect. Perfect doesn’t irritate a reader, it doesn’t elicit a reaction. Interesting does.

2. It challenges what you think you know as a writer

“One thing I want you to take away from this class is the idea of writing as a calling. It’s an activity that has a higher purpose. It’s part of the way which we fulfill ourselves as human beings. both in the words that we write and in the words that we read.”

When I was younger, I didn’t find non-fiction books interesting. I was always drawn to the poetic, the dramatic. I love fiction. And I never thought of non-fiction as anything but books filled with facts.

But this MasterClass has shown me another side to non-fiction. It has shown me a side of writing that I’ve never really thought of before.

I learned that there is poetry in writing about real life. That there are a hundred and one ways you can look at a story, and how to pick out that one thing that people will relate to.

And you’ll see Malcolm Gladwell express the sentiment beautifully throughout the course.

His methods and techniques challenge what you think you already know. Gladwell forces you to look at writing with a different, simpler, but more efficient approach.

In one lesson, he talks about the importance of punctuation, and how there should be musicality to what you’re writing, and that the simple act of reading your piece out loud can fix issues in flowing, pacing, and wording right away.

Gladwell rampantly shares these tidbits like knowledge bombs: how to use punctuation, incorporate jargon, the beauty of writing simply, and the magic of long sentences only when they are necessary.

These are things I have never learned from any book or any other writing class before. It’s a minefield of useful and practical information.

And it is these nuggets of wisdom that I think, you will take away throughout your writing profession and something that will elevate your process like no other.

What I didn’t like about Malcolm Gladwell’s class on writing

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is close to perfect. Close. Some things can be improved. Here are the things I didn’t like.

1. It can be too anecdotal

You’re listening carefully. Malcolm Gladwell says something interesting. You’re at the edge of your seat… and then he cuts himself off to tell you a story.

Perhaps it’s just me. But I don’t find anecdotes super interesting. I’m not saying Gladwell’s aren’t interesting. A lot of the stories he shares end up in a eureka moment. I particularly enjoyed the one about the ketchup industry.

But perhaps he could have reeled it in just a little. If you find yourself getting away from the lesson because of a certain anecdote, you can lose the point.

It is by no means a major flaw. Merely a little dent on his teaching skills. And that’s the beauty of an online course – you can just rewind.

2. The Office Hours feature is empty

I’ve had my share of MasterClass courses and trust me when I say that one of my favorite things is the Office Hours feature. Even if you don’t get feedback or answers from a “master,” it is still usually a goldmine of additional information. You’ll be able to watch feedback and answers for other students.

But Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass Office Hours is empty. There are no videos to watch. There seems to be no feedback on other student’s works.

And that, for me, is a major flaw. Who knows, though, this might still change in the future. You can still submit any questions and participate in the workbook assignments. However, it’s best not to expect a response from Malcolm Gladwell.

The verdict: Is it worth your money?

Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Yes. 100% yes.

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is perhaps the best writing course you can ever put your money on. 

It’s the perfect course if you’re looking to be a better writer. His lessons are both important and timely; he will show you many “evergreen” facts that make up a hallmark of good inquisitive writing.

Did I learn something? Heck yes.

I think the biggest takeaway is learning how to have fun with it, how to stop taking things too seriously, and how to try and approach every piece you write in every possible way, every perspective, every angle. But to remember not to take everything you see as a whole, but simply subtracting all the noise, and writing something wonderful.

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is eye-opening, infectious, and inspiring. It will make you fall in love with writing differently. And your readers will appreciate it.

You can check out Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass here. Check out MasterClass’s All-Access Pass here. Or check out our full guide to the best MasterClass classes to take here.

Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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