David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell: The Underdog Book Review

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell: The Underdog Book Review

The value in one sentence: David and Goliath shows you that sometimes not being the biggest, or most powerful is exactly the ingredient you need to become successful.

Who is it by?

Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer at the New Yorker, and author of bestsellers Outliers, Blink, The Tipping Point and What The Dog Saw.

Who should read it?

This is a book for people that are the biggest in their industries or field to learn about their own possible disadvantages. This is also a book for those that struggle with the inferiority mindset but want to become successful.

How will I take action after reading this book?

I will take more risks to write more different types of posts to stretch myself. Because giants aren’t impenetrable, instead of being intimidated by successful people I am now more curious as to how they got there and what kind of person they are.

My Main (of many) Takeaways:

I learned that when we look to a powerful authority we make incorrect assumptions. We think that by default their size, power and advantages make them unbeatable.

Do you think so? Well, Malcolm Gladwell says you’re wrong if you do.

After all, David did beat Goliath. This book is about how shepherd boys can beat battle-tested giants, how the powerless can rise above the powerful, and how you can overcome the odds.

Gladwell takes you from the streets of the Martin Luther King Jr. movement where the crushingly unfavorable situations become catalysts for equality to exploring the modern classroom and how class sizes less than 15 might actually harm student achievement, to how going to top universities might actually harm your future.

He brilliantly weaves together narratives across generations and socio-political landscapes to teach you one thing:

Things are never the way they seem and you have to realize this if you want to become successful.

Just because a class of 24 students is better than a class of 30 students does not mean a class of 7 students is better than a class of 18 students. Just because someone grows up poor, with learning disabilities, or missing a parent does not mean he or she cannot go on to be great.

In fact, this is the life of Emil J. Freireich, someone Gladwell references frequently throughout one section of David and Goliath. Growing up in the Great Depression, Freireich’s father died when he was 2. 

Freireich went on to become the pioneer of combination chemotherapy, a treatment for cancer. You will learn about the mindset, upbringing, and strategies that allowed Freireich to overcome the odds.

While Freireich combatted poverty and family issues, Gary Cohn grew up with dyslexia. Dyslexia complicates the ability to read and write and makes education difficult. Despite this, Cohn eventually became the Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs, a big bank in the United States.

Gladwell teaches you that difficulty develops your ability to think creatively. You will learn how Martin Luther King Jr. was very strategic in using the media and people to fight for equality. You’ll also get examples of how Cohn and Freireich had to be creative in their own way and became successful.

In another section, Gladwell shows us that authority and power without legitimacy is pointless. He writes:

‘…the powerful have to worry about how others think of them – that those who give orders are acutely vulnerable to the opinions of those whom they are ordering about’ – p. 217

If you think that authority lets you order others around effectively, you are wrong. You also need to value the others’ opinions, be consistent in your responses, and fair to all people. Successful authority only follows legitimacy.

To support this, Gladwell uses the example of Jaffe. Jaffe was a police chief that dramatically decreased crime in Brownsville, New York. With her team, she bought known delinquents turkey at Thanksgiving, invited them to parties and played sports with them. 

By showing love and sympathy, Jaffe decreased the counts of robberies in Brownsville from 130 cases in 2006 to 30 cases in 2011.

Here and using other examples, you will learn how the power of forgiveness can sometimes be more liberating than the abuses of power. Upon finishing the book, I am convinced of one point Gladwell makes:

‘The powerful are not as powerful as they seem – nor the weak as weak.’ – p. 268

If you are curious about how underdogs, misfits can become successful, how power can be an illusion, and unconventional paths to greatness, then David and Goliath would be an interesting read for you.

I want to know from you. Do you think that power can be an illusion? Comment below.

If you haven’t read my last review on Never Eat Alone, check it out here.

This Post Has 90 Comments

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