Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath

Why did I choose to read the book?

After having heard and read a wide range of opinions on Malcom Gladwell’s books (especially Thiel’s name-dropping in his book Zero to One), I decided to start with one of his earlier books.

What is it about?

The legendary eponymous adversaries. Small, lean, quick and witty David, slayed the big, slow and unprepared Goliath, a biblical story used to explain many circumstances of how an underdog rose up to prominence to overthrow the established competition, which has fascinated popular culture for centuries (or maybe even millenia). What Gladwell asks though, is this really true? Is the underdog always the small David, and the established competition always the enormous Goliath? Also, how did David, but a small and insignificant Shepard, find the courage to stand against the perceived overwhelming odds? Gladwell seeks to answer the question, why people become exceptional and what their experiences have been like, to shape them into the people they become.

How did I like the book?

While it started quite slow, with a retelling of the ancient myth and some historical analysis of the story, the book swiftly picked up its pace. Especially memorable were his explanations how misconceived some public beliefs are. Also jarring were his ideas about extremes. Its more often than not just as bad to have too much, as it is to have too little. Too much money for example can lead to new discomforts different or maybe even similar to those that originate from too little or lack thereof. Most fascinating though, were his ideas of how Davids are created. Disadvantages can lead people to do extraordinary things to overcome them and trauma can make people more resilient. Overall, this book does quite a feat in showing how people have and do overcome the unthinkable.