This month’s book review is of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David & Goliath’, one of the best books I have read this year no doubt.
Malcolm Gladwell, for those who don’t know is a world-renowned author with several international bestsellers under his belt, the most popular being his book Outliers. Outliers and David and Goliath are albeit a tad bit similar in that they both dwell on the underdog coming out on top but each describing the process in a different way.
There have been mixed reactions to David & Goliath, which is Gladwell’s most recent work. Critics both love it and are frustrated by it and by this I mean they love its message, which of course is always something one wants to hear, but they also cannot stand the repetitive stand he has slowly started taking in his books. Mixed reviews are expected though; he would not be an international bestselling author without them! I on the other hand particularly learned a lot from this book. Gladwell tells his story as if teaching a class. He actually talks to us readers and his skill at that makes one glued to every single word he writes. David & Goliath was obviously titled as such as there is a lot of allegorical references to the biblical story of the boy shepherd and the giant. It all boils down to one simple fact: being the weaker one in the ring doesn’t always constitute failure. In fact it sometimes assures the very opposite.
David had nothing going for him when he had to face Goliath except his speed thanks to his small frame and his sling. Goliath on the other hand was fully armored and built to kill yet somehow he was defeated by those two things that everyone thought would be David’s downfall… ‘More is not always better.’ Malcolm Gladwell.
A chapter in this book talks about turning your disadvantages into advantages. Gladwell introduces it quite precisely by saying, “We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.” He goes on to explain this chapter by using dyslexia as the main focus. Certain difficulties we may involuntarily have may work for us than against us. Gladwell refers to these as desirable difficulties, such as in the case of British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, Big time trial lawyer, David Boies, and Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn all of whom are dyslexic. They did not let that hinder their hunger for success in life. They are innovators, who Gladwell describes as people who have to be able to imagine things that others cannot and be willing to challenge their own preconceptions.
A good local example of one such innovator is self-made multi-millionaire, Heshan De Silva. He is not dyslexic but he did have some ‘desirable difficulties’ of his own as well. Heshan’s story is one that will be told for generations to come especially because he is part and parcel of today’s generation; he is only 25. He suffered from drug addiction, alcoholism and even attempted suicide after seeing his life spiral down the way it did. He dropped out of college and tried to start over. No one gave him the time of day and job rejections were in the bucket load until he decided that if no one will open a door for him, he would make his own door and open it himself. With only less than 150$ to his name, he started a small insurance business. Today, the 25-year-old venture capitalist and founder of the De Silva Group, is worth over $10 million. Just like David, he was the weaker one in a sea of huge white sharks, but he did not let himself get eaten. Instead he taught himself how to swim even faster, without a single university degree to his name.
David and Goliath is made up of these types of stories and more. Though repetitive, due to its similarity to Outliers, it’s not such a bad thing to be reminded that the Underdog actually does always win.