Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)
Danielle Oristian York, Managing Director, 21/64
“Young people who learn to manage both their human and financial capital are more at peace – and effective – than those kids who have learned to manage only one or the other.” –Joline Godfrey
As the title indicates, Gladwell takes the biblical story of David and Goliath, the Israelite shepherd boy who defeated the giant warrior of the Philistines as his central metaphor to present an eclectic set of intriguing possibilities and musings about human behavior all focused on the premise that the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. In his typical style for those familiar, he links big ideas together in fascinating ways to make his case. He connects people who are dyslexic with a hero of the civil rights movement and the citizens of London during the blitz, suggesting they all managed to turn disadvantages into advantages and came out better for it, calling this the “theory of desirable difficulty.” Then he takes the flip side where he postures, that those that have qualities that appear to give them strength, are often the sources of great weakness.
With his close reading of each of these intriguing stories about a range of fascinating characters, Gladwell outlines his thesis: that “much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” More important, “we constantly get these kind of conflicts wrong.” That is, we misread and misinterpret: “Giants are not what we think they are.”
As I consider the challenges each of us faces and those that exist in the world and so many are passionate about changing, I’m heartened by the sense of hopeful possibility Gladwell’s perspective evokes and intrigued to consider how to be prepared to revisit our apparent advantages.