Book 12 of 52: "David and Goliath", by Malcolm Gladwell

Ever since I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, I’ve always been a fan of his books.  I’ve read Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw, so when I saw that he had a new book, it was an easy decision for me to add it to my list.

Once again, Gladwell tackles some of our assumptions about how the world should logically work.  In the typical “David and Goliath” story, the titular tale of this book, a tiny underdog goes against overwhelming odds – and somehow perseveres and manages to conquer.  What an unexpected result!

However, is David’s win over Goliath really such a surprise?  Gladwell argues that it is not!  Indeed, in the ancient world, stone-slingers (David) were typically used as the natural military counter to slow, heavy infantry (Goliath).  Why would anyone be surprised by David’s win?

Indeed, as Gladwell goes on to show through a plethora of other examples, many times the individual that we regard as the underdog turns out to have at least one, sometimes several crucial advantages.  Gladwell emphasizes the idea of “near misses” versus “remote misses”.  For example, when talking about a bombing, a near miss might leave an individual wounded.  But when an individual experiences a remote miss, they are not only unharmed by the bomb – but also, since the bomb missed the first time, that individual starts feeling invincible, and is more likely to take on additional risk in the future!

It is this idea of near misses, Gladwell argues, that leads to underdogs often rising up far higher than anyone might predict.  And although the concept sometimes seems extreme, he fills the book with plenty of examples to back it up.

While there aren’t a ton of lessons to take away for improving your personal life or approach towards problems, the book is, as are all of Gladwell’s books, a thoroughly interesting and engaging read.

Time to read: about 3 hours.

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