David and Goliath

Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”  As a society we are always measured or being measured to someone else, whether in the classroom, the board room or in between. DAVID and GOLIATH – Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants  by Malcolm Gladwell uncovers and explains these obvious truths about these “giants.”

DAVID and GOLIATH is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By “giants” I mean powerful opponents of all kinds – from armies, and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune and oppression.” This book peels back the layers, breaks down the ways/myths and exposes the obstacles that challenge our individual and/or communal perception of what society has conditioned us to believe about success, privilege and advantage. More importantly, it invites the reader to look at a situation from a different vantage point.

It opens with the classic story about the epic battle between David and Goliath. To the obvious David was the underdog, but through a series of circumstances we learn that Goliath was probably the underdog. David was a shepherd boy who protected his flock with a mere slingshot. Which meant along with other variables, every day he had the opportunity to perfect his slingshot skills. A slingshot with which he slayed the giant, Goliath.

There were several poignant examples that Malcolm Gladwell explains in great detail, but for the sake of brevity we will highlight just a few.

  1. Being a big fish in a little pond and vice versa. Whether it is in the academic arena (universities, public and private schools, Corporate America, professional organizations, etc.). “We strive for the best and attach great importance to getting into the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider – whether the mist prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest.”
  2. The Inverted-U curve. “The left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. The flat middle, where doing more doesn’t make much of a difference. And the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse.” Everything “depends on where you are on the curve.”
  3. Incarceration creates collateral damage. If you lock up too  many people for too long, the collateral damage starts to outweigh the benefit.”
  4. An extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs, almost a third are dyslexic. He discusses two types of learning: Capitalization and Compensation. Capitalization learning is when “we get good at something by building on the strengths that we are naturally given. Compensation learning “forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant.”

Have you ever in your life felt or been treated like an underdog? A misfit? Or even a giant? What if you knew that “being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate.” If an underdog “can open doors, create opportunities, educate, enlighten and make possible what might otherwise be unthinkable,” would you still consider it a bad thing? You cannot help but see yourself or know of someone in many of the examples he writes about in this book.


  • “Scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year.”
  • “The excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems, and force without legitimacy leads to defiance, not submission.”
  • There is no such thing as an unmitigated good. All positive traits, states,  and experience have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.”
  • What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes early.”

Malcolm Gladwell is a master of taking seemingly unrelated events and showing the connections of “hidden” situations. “Hidden” because to the unfamiliar or untrained eye anything obvious is “hidden.” Once again we discover that the perceived advantages or mastery of skills are nothing more than adaptation and hard work to environmental (or sometimes genetic) circumstances. In the moment of discovery we see the “the unexpected freedom that comes from having nothing to lose.”

Let’s BOND over BOOKS  rates DAVID and GOLIATH as MELODICALLY MEANINGFUL (151-300 pgs)…just the right mixture of content and pages.


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