I love me some Malcolm Gladwell. His is a talent for making non-fiction compulsively readable and relatable. I was eagerly anticipating the release of his latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
When I walked into Chapters and saw towers of his books marked down to $20, well, my self-inflicted book-buying ban took a hiatus.
In David and Goliath, Gladwell looks at times in history and in individual’s lives when someone that shouldn’t have had a chance against a Goliath, ends up winning. His thesis seems to be that in normal circumstances, most of us fear fear, and that stops us from thinking about things a certain way. Before we even begin, we assume that we will fail.
These Davids have had something mark them at some point in their lives and they don’t fear fear the way the rest of us do; some are dyslexic and have always had to think of making things work differently so they don’t see anything wrong with jumping into a cab and asking for a job; some had no money growing up so they’ve always worked extra hard to get some so that their children don’t have the same worries. Paradoxically, this creates a completely different scenario where the children have never had to work for anything and don’t particularly want to.
Gladwell poses a number of questions in this book that seem to have an obvious answer (You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child right? You would want your child to go to a school with small class sizes wouldn’t you? You would have a better chance of success going to an Ivy League school than your back-up choice right?) and then turning them on their head. Turns out that smaller class sizes doesn’t necessarily mean that your child would get a superior education, it might actually make the children in that class less able to solve their own problems (findings that were totally corroborated by my friend who is a 3rd grade teacher). And going to an Ivy League school might give you an inferiority complex, surrounded as you’d be by other insanely brilliant people.
I found this book kind of liberating. Once again Gladwell illuminated something for me that I was aware of but wasn’t able to articulate. I often don’t do things because before I’ve even started, I assume that I will be terrible at it. I’m letting Goliath get me before I’ve even had a chance to swing.
I will recommend any Gladwell book a million times and once again, he proves why he’s the best at what he does.