I don’t usually read non-fiction (except some history) but I’ve read several of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers). I guess I should review all these since I really like them all. Anyhow, the reason I like Malcolm Gladwell’s books is that he starts with something you think you know already. Something most of us would dismiss quickly and wonder why anyone would want to spend time delving into it. But therein lies his magic.
He starts the book with the story of David and Goliath. This is one story that almost everyone thinks he or she knows, right? A little shepherd David with a rounded stone and his slingshot against a giant of a man wearing full armor and carrying a javelin, a spear, and a sword. Do we even need to think about who is going to win this match before we bet on the winner? But, Malcolm Gladwell goes on to explain that it was really a one-sided match up, and it was David, not Goliath who had all the advantage. Almost from the beginning, a positive outcome was assured…for David.
I’m just going to summarize these people’s experiences in a couple of sentences.
The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages)
Vivek Ranadive – a man who didn’t know how to play basketball game and ended up taking his daughter’s team to almost win the National Junior Basketball Championship.
Teresa DeBrito – upending the educational holy grail of class sizes…, that smaller isn’t always better and the optimum size is actually larger than you’d think.
Caroline Sacks – sending your children to Ivy League schools might give you bragging rights, but it might be one of the worst things you could do if you want your children to live their dream careers, especially in science and technology.
The Theory of Desirable Difficulty
David Boies – you wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you? Dyslexia might be an important contributor to dizzying success.
Emil “Jay” Freireich – how hardship in life makes a person an optimist, how German Blitz on England failed because although people died, many remote misses helped the Londoners feel invincible, and how he revolutionized the treatment of childhood leukemia.
Wyatt Walker – the most famous photograph in the history of the American civil rights movement was taken on 5/3/1963, and it’s not at all what it seems.
There are more people and topics Malcolm Gladwell covers in the last third of the book, and as usual, in almost every case, the conventional wisdom of how things should be is upended. We learn that, in many cases, one person or a small group of people could face almost impossible obstacles and triumph.
I love this book because I’ve learned so much from this book. I’ll be sure to go back and refresh every so often to make sure I don’t forget the lessons. I think everyone should read this book. As a parent of two young children, I want to recommend this book to all the parents who covet Ivy League education. That eye-opening section (Caroline Sacks) alone is worth the price of a hardback book.
* This is a re-post from another blog I write not so regularly.