Thursday, March 6, 2014

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

by Malcolm Gladwell

A few years ago I read Gladwell's book Outliers, which seems to attribute success to exceptionality and practicing 10,000 hours. In this novel he is back to examining successful people, but this time it is those who beat the odds. David and Goliath examines people who have the deck stacked against them, but come out on top. His claim is that their success is not in spite of their challenges, as tradition dictates, but because of those trials in their lives.

Gladwell begins this book by taking a fresh look at the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Rather than accepting convention, that David's size and lack of battle skill was a tremendous handicap, Gladwell suggests that his experience with the sling allowed him to confront the giant in an unconventional manner thus providing his victory. While his theory has some validity, he does a great deal to discredit Goliath by making him out to be somewhat incapacitated. The stories that follow look at individuals and groups of people who seem weak physically or emotionally, yet they use those handicaps to adapt, which in turn leads to their triumph. There is a fun story of a championship basketball team that consisted of a bunch of nerdy preteen girls, numerous CEO's who struggled with dyslexia and people in war zones.

Don't expect you'll learn any secrets to success in this book. While it is chock full of underdogs it is lacking in explanation. The conclusion is that you simply can't determine who will adapt to overcome their giant and who will be swallowed up. If you liked Gladwell's other books you'd like this one too. It is a fast, fun and uplifting read.

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