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Malcolm Gladwell: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Updated on September 7, 2014
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

When Disadvantages Become Advantages

I was lucky enough to see an interview with Malcolm Gladwell on his newest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Jon Stewart has a guest on almost every single episode, with many of them being authors of new books.

I became aware of Malcolm Gladwell in 2000, when he came out with The Tipping Point, which examined the idea of when some small spark can turn the tide in a given situation. The Tipping Point was and is one of the best business books that has ever come out, and really was a fascinating study on tipping points.

Since 2000, Gladwell has published Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, Outliers: The Story of Success, and now his newest book which just came out October 1, 2013, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

What Gladwell does in his books is raise questions more than provide us with answers. His books make us look at things in a new way, and consider our world, especially the business world with new eyes.

I was fascinated by his interview, because he talked a bit about how he comes up with an idea, and then researches it. This newest book examines our assumptions about what we call disadvantages and advantages.

This is a different interview (use the link above to see the Jon Stewart interview)

Malcolm Gladwell 2014
Malcolm Gladwell 2014 | Source

The Premise

Anyone who was raised in the Western World is familiar with the story of David and Goliath--how a simple shepherd could defeat a giant warrior. Gladwell looks at this situation in the business world today with an eye towards how often people with perceived disadvantages achieve success against the odds. In the David and Goliath story, David comes to battle with his slingshot against a trained warrior and beats him. David has many disadvantages in the tale including his size, his lack of training, and his weapon.

In the interview, Gladwell talked about often people who grow up with disadvantages such as dyslexia are successful in a much higher percentage in business than they exist in society as a whole. The statistics bear out with his research which you can read in the book. The question is why?

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The Question

Malcolm Gladwell chases the question of what is really a disadvantage in becoming successful. That our notion of advantage and disadvantage may be skewed.

He talked about people with dyslexia on the Jon Stewart Show as an example. For instance, children with dyslexia struggle with many everyday tasks like schoolwork that the average person takes for granted. This means that they are often miserable during their youth, disadvantaged.

However, in adulthood, the percentage of people who are dyslexics and become successful, is significantly higher than the percentage of dyslexics in the general population. One of the key factors that Gladwell looks at in David and Goliath is that due to their disadvantage, dyslexia, these people have to learn strategies to overcome their obstacles in unusual ways and that the need to do this ends up turning a perceived disadvantage into an advantage in adulthood.

The book is not just about dyslexics; this is just an example of a perceived disadvantage. It is similar to the question of why two people that are raised in the same household, even twins, can turn out completely different. I highly recommend that you pick up this book, available currently in hardcover and on Kindle, and follow the journey that Malcolm Gladwell opens up for us in his new book.

© 2014 Paula Atwell


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    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Hi Audrey, I think this is his latest. :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      I so enjoy Gladwell's perspective on things! Thank you so much for this--I haven't read this one of his yet!

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Thanks, midget. It is a very interesting premise.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      I love it when underdogs make good!!!

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Jodah Yes, I have known people with dyslexia that are quite successful and sometimes need a bit of extra help with specific tasks, but so what, don't we all? Working around a regular system creatively may give them a boost in understanding that you can.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was very interesting Paula. Thanks for introducing me to malcolm Gladwell. I agree with his premise that people with dyslexia grow up to be successful due to learning ways to overcome their difficulties. My daughter is dyslexic but she is now successful at so many different things.

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Pawpaw That is what I felt during the Jon Stewart interview. It is a matter of how he thinks and then what he does with the data that was of interest to me.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image


      4 years ago from Kansas

      I watched an interview with him once. I found him to be a very interesting person. I would think anything he wrote, would also be interesting.

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Hi teaches,

      This author does not come at this subject from the viewpoint of helping autistic people or those with other disabilities. He is looking at societal issues and making claims based on studies of varying groups. He generally writes books for business leaders. Definitely worth a look. :)

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Rhonda yes, I agree. Even if you are not convinced, it is an interesting point.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      I have family and friends with dyslexia and they suffered in their educational process but through support they have overcome their difficulties. I have not heard of this author but after readin your post, I believe he has some great advice for readers.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I'm a big fan of the underdog so this title really got my attention. It's an interesting premise about dyslexic people. I'm intrigued.

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Acorn Tipping Point had a lot of press. This one is good too.

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Nell Rose His stuff is mostly business related, so if you don't read business books, you might not have heard of him.

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 

      4 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      I have read Tipping Point but none of Gladwell's other books. This one is intriguing and I always love an underdog coming back from behind, so to speak.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Hi, this was fascinating reading, and something I will look into, I had never heard of him, so I learned something new, nell

    • Paula Atwell profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula Atwell 

      4 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      He's an interesting writer and doesn't use a lot of extra words to get his point across.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the suggestion and review. I hate to admit this, but I've never heard of him. I'll check him out.


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