David and Goliath

4 09 2014

Believe it or not, but this is the first time I read this much fabled story about David and Goliath. And Malcom Gladwell’s perspective completely threw me off my ground. It was exciting to get led by him onto the many disadvantages of Goliath and how he was doomed right from the moment David decided to accept the challenge. It acts as a powerful premise for the point that the rest of the book makes. Malcom Gladwell knows how to capture reader’s attention. He is quite an orator too. Recently, I have watched a TED talk by him and I was impressed by his eloquence.

DavidAndGoliathChapter by chapter, with loads of real-life examples, he tries to convince the readers why our conventional perception of advantages and disadvantages is not always correct. He says that being a big fish in small pond pays better than being a small fish in big pond. He elucidates on desirable difficulties. He talks about inverted U curve, where after a point more of something actually hurts. It applies to class size – while it’s general notion that the smaller the class the better, it can be too small to benefit the students. Likewise, there is a limit to power too. When power is not perceived as legitimate, enforcing more of it will only result in chaos and uprising.

He discussed dyslexia and put forth the fact that a third of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. His theory is – since people with dyslexia need to work hard at what others can do almost naturally, their other faculties like “listening” are exceptional. He argues that their ability to handle failure is much better. I was appalled, to say the least, when he casually suggested that given the hidden advantages associated with being dyslexic ,we may wish it on our children. But to my greatest relief, the elite group of successful dyslexic people were unanimous in their reaction – they said they wouldn’t wish it on their children. Same is the case with any depravity. Despite so, he concludes, we as a society need people who have come out of some trauma – because they can do things which others cannot.

[True that it’s adversary that initiates action from people. If we are comfortable and happy, we wouldn’t do much of anything to change our state, do we? So, we usually achieve great things in our attempts to conquer our miseries/adversaries. But that doesn’t mean that we should actively seek misery. The law of nature sees to it. Many times success and happiness are two different things.]

He also talks about ‘remote misses’ – a phenomenon which would result in stronger and more courageous people, in the midst of intense bombing. He agrees that for each ‘remote miss’, there will be countless ‘near misses’, who are crushed by the experience.; likewise, 90% of dyslexic people end up as failures.

The author seems to be glorifying desirable difficulties, but the whole point as I got it is this: Make the best out of your situation. If you have a disadvantage, focus in its hidden advantages and exploit them to your best.

A very interesting and thoroughly engaging read.

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10 09 2014
The science of happiness | Peek Inside My Mind

[…] compared to unhappy people (the same point discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book – David and Goliath). But why the blind pressure to succeed in the first place? After a point, success means nothing, […]

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