November 26, 2013
Book Short: Triumph over Adversity
In truth, Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, was a bit of a disappointment. I thought his first three books, Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, were fantastic, and I routinely refer to them in business. David and Goliath isn’t bad, it’s just a little light and hangs together a lot less than Gladwell’s other books.
I just read a scathing review of it in The New Republic, which I won’t bother linking to, mostly because the reviewer was on a total rant about Gladwell in general and was particularly insulting to people who read Gladwell (an interesting approach to a book review), essentially calling us self-help seekers who aren’t interested in reality or wisdom. Nice.
Two seminal quotes from the book that get at its essence are:
To play by David’s rules you have to be desperate. You have to be so bad that you have no choice.
He was an underdog and a misfit, and that gave him the freedom to try things no one else ever dreamt of.
Those things are probably generally true in life, but also applicable to business. A business book I read years ago called The Underdog Advantage: Using the Power of Insurgent Strategy to Put Your Business on Top, by David Morey and Scott Miller, brings this principle to life for work.
I also liked the concept Gladwell talked about a few times in the book about being a big fish in a small pond, and how that can sometimes be a better place to be than a small fish in a big pond in terms of building self-confidence. That’s certainly been true for me in my life.
If you go back the premise of Gladwell’s books in general, as I heard him say on The Daily Show the other night — “to get people to look at the world a little differently” — then David and Goliath does that on some level. And for that alone, it’s probably worth a quick read.