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

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This Book Review of David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants  By Malcolm Gladwell is brought to you from Ian Barnett Moss from the Titans of Investing.

Genre: Medical Applied Psychology
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Title: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Buy the Book)

Summary:

Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants eloquently challenges many of society’s preconceived notions about advantages and disadvantages in adversity.

Gladwell’s challenges are captured in three main theories:

  1. the advantages of disadvantages and the disadvantage of advantages
  2. the importance of “desired difficulties,” and
  3. the limits of strength.
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The book centers on the ultimate underdog story of David and Goliath and the parallels of that ancient battle in our modern life.

Goliath was advantaged because he was battle-tested, strong, and fierce, while David was a shepherd boy, who slew the giant by a miracle from God. We see David as an underdog because of our lens; the same lens with which we view our own everyday Goliaths.

Gladwell explains that David was really at an advantage because he was a trained type of soldier called a slinger.

Slingers had the same deadly effect as a modern handgun with pinpoint accuracy.

Society tells us that, because Goliath was big and David was small, David was an underdog; however, because David was the underdog, he was able to change the rules of engagement and use his strengths (and maybe a little providence) to defeat his Goliath and save a nation.

The first segment of the book analyzes the advantages of disadvantages and the disadvantages of advantages in a number of contexts from military battles to basketball and from Ivy League college to Parisian art societies.

Gladwell uses historical examples of paradigms of strength and prestige that would be considered a giant against a lesser opponent. He then aptly illustrates how the very strength of a traditional approach can become a disadvantage because of the inherent constraints. Whereas, the smaller and apparently inferior approach can be an advantage when the rules of engagement are changed in the same way that David changed them against Goliath.

The second segment focuses on the importance of “desired difficulties.” Gladwell describes desired difficulties as challenges that people are forced to face that initially discourage them.

Although these difficulties can have devastating effects, if one can learn to adapt and overcome the challenges, the capabilities they develop often prove to be advantageous. Examples include the development of extraordinary memory skills to compensate for dyslexia, an uncommon self-reliance that results from the loss of a parent, and an entire country that finds inspiration from the survival of continuous bombing attacks.

In the same manner, Gladwell opines that each of our difficulties can be desirable and our giants defeated if we turn them into strengths.

The third part of David and Goliath exposes the limits of strength. Gladwell makes the case that strength can be overused and eventually will result in diminishing returns.

Understanding that strength has its limitations is a key aspect of understanding our challenges. The book uses historic known examples of the limits of strength during the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland and during the civil rights movement in the United States.

Gladwell also compares stories of parents after horrific murders of their children. One parent was able to convince the government that it should prosecute repeat offenders with the full strength of the law, which cost millions of dollars but had an unintended inverse impact on impoverished communities. Conversely, the other parent chose to publicly forgive and became an inspiration to her community by refraining from retribution.

David and Goliath is a compelling collection of stories and analysis that give its readers hope that their giants are not as invincible as they might perceive. The book provides useful context for business leaders engaging in difficult conversations with teams and individual employees facing adversity and will serve as a tool to change a potential negative situation into a positive.

Introduction:

In David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell employs a unique writing style to convey his theories. He uses historical figures and events to demonstrate valuable perspectives on important life situations.

Gladwell’s objective is to change the reader’s perspective on challenging situations from negative to positive and give hope by providing compelling case studies that align with the biblical story of the brave shepherd boy, David, in a life or death battle with the apparently superior warrior giant, Goliath.

The book is divided into three distinct and memorable theories – “the advantages of disadvantages,” “desirable difficulties,” and “the limits of power.” Each theory enables the reader to change the situational rules of engagement and achieve improbable victories in life.

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The biblical story of David and Goliath is hailed as one of the greatest underdog stories of all time.

The Israelite and Philistine armies were at impasse on opposite sides of a valley with both sides unwilling to attack and risk giving up their strategic position. Goliath, the mightiest warrior in the Philistine army, challenged the Israelites – if any man could defeat him, then the Philistines would become slaves to the Israelites. Conversely, if Goliath won, the Israelites would become slaves to the Philistines.

The fate of an entire nation rested on the shoulders of whomever would face the challenge. David, a faithful shepherd boy delivering food to his older brothers in battle stepped forward to show the power of his God. Rather than accepting the notion that David’s victory was a miracle, Gladwell makes the case that David was not disadvantaged and that Goliath’s strength and approach to the battle were his biggest weaknesses.

Goliath was expecting someone to fight him in close combat with the same weapons.

Gladwell speculates that Goliath wore over one hundred pounds of armor, which limited his movement. David was an experienced projectile warrior, who could accurately sling a stone with the velocity of a modern handgun at 200 yards. Therefore, David’s strength perfectly aligned with Goliath’s weakness.

The story clearly demonstrates the mistake society often makes when perceiving strengths or weaknesses of individuals facing adversity. Each of Gladwell’s three paradoxical theories applies to David’s victory over seemingly impossible odds.

PART ONE:

Theory: The Advantages of Disadvantages

Gladwell’s lesson is that we should establish rules of engagement in difficult situations designed to make our weaknesses our strengths. He uses three common people and the story of Lawrence of Arabia who overcame tremendous odds in his battle with the Turks to illustrate the paradox.

First, Gladwell tells the story of Ranadive, an Indian immigrant, who reluctantly agreed to coach his daughter’s middle school basketball team. Having grown up playing cricket and soccer with no experience in basketball would appear to be a disadvantage. However, the inexperience allowed him to approach the game with a fresh set of eyes unencumbered by traditional rules, such as giving up 70% of the court to opponents on their inbound pass.

He challenged the status quo by making conditioning the team’s strength and full court pressing the opposing teams throughout the game. Every practice focused on conditioning so that they could maintain aggressiveness for an entire game. Ranadive’s “disadvantaged” team made it to the state championship.

On the surface, this looks impossible, but when you consider how profoundly Ranadive changed the rules, it makes perfect sense.

Similar to Ranadive, Lawrence of Arabia was not a standard British Army officer. He was an archaeologist who did not speak in technical military terms and had little regard for military traditions.

In 1917, Lawrence led an Arabian revolt against the Turkish army occupying Arabia. He led a task force of nomads, who were not military trained, or battle-tested but were mobile and tough, on a 600-mile march in the heat of summer.

The Turkish forces, with superior numbers, ammunition, and supplies, were caught completely off guard, and their resources became their weakness rendering them immobile and defensive. Lawrence’s nomads had knowledge of the terrain, survival skills, and the courage to make this offensive attack and made the lack of materials their advantage.

This audacious journey allowed them to be unpredictable and efficient, and their disadvantage became their advantage.

The parallels between Ranadive’s and Lawrence’s story are significant. In the same way that Lawrence was not a traditional general, Ranadive was not a traditional basketball coach.

Society has inaccurately generalized that this is a disadvantage.

In both scenarios, this perceived disadvantage is the very factor that allowed them to be successful. With a fresh set of eyes, they were able to think outside of the box, change the rules of engagement, and show the “Goliaths” that they are not as advantaged as they might think.

Full personal commitment and effort, in both cases, proved to be the difference maker.

Theory: The Disadvantages of Advantages

Teresa Debrito, principal of Shepaug Valley Middle School, has a common story that Gladwell uses to prove the converse of the advantage of disadvantages – the disadvantages of perceived advantages.

During Teresa’s career, she had seen her school grow to maximum capacity and then shrink to the point there were barely enough kids to fill a classroom. Common belief is that there is strength in small classes so the ratio of students to teacher is smaller, but studies tell a different story.

Gladwell introduces the concept of the “inverse U-Curve,” which is based on the premise that a single factor can be a strength, but only to a point. Once the curve peaks, the strength begins to diminish and begins to create problems as opposed to solving them.

While Gladwell recognizes that a classroom of 30:1 can provide challenges, the data shows, if the class becomes too small, the “strength” will adversely affect the learning environment. Classrooms need to provide a setting where students feel free to speak and are comfortable with struggling, so if the class is too small, less confident students will feel uncomfortable because they will feel forced to participate.

Smaller classes have also proven to be a more difficult environment to cultivate active discussion.

Diversity of thought is needed in a classroom to contribute to the growth of a student and to create an environment in which students are constantly learning from one another. Teresa Debrito’s school struggled to create this environment needed to enhance the learning of its students because it did not have enough students; thus, the strength became a weakness.

Another example Gladwell uses to prove this point is the experience of an unnamed Hollywood actor, who learned the value of money at a young age because his father grew up in the depression.

As a child, this actor was forced to be creative to make money, so he set up businesses in which he would find work and hire kids in his neighborhood to rake leaves in the fall or shovel snow in the winter.

Through these experiences, he quickly learned the value of hard work, and while he eventually became a successful actor, he always made sure he held onto those values he learned as a child. According to Gladwell, “he was successful because he had learned the long and hard way about the value of money and the meaning of work as well as the joy and fulfillment that comes from making your own way in the world” (pg. 47).

However, money did not solve all his problems.

Society reasons that, with more money, parenting becomes easier because there is not a struggle to provide financially, thus making you a more successful parent.

The actor found that instilling his values into his own children was nearly impossible because there was no need to struggle. Gladwell goes on to explain the difficulty as a parent in telling a child “no” when they ask for something that is not a necessity – like a pony.

Saying “no, we will not” is much harder for a parent than “no, we cannot.”

Similarly, “no, we will not” is difficult for a child to understand when he sees everything the parents are able to afford, which leads to natural feelings of being cheated. Saying “no, we cannot” is much easier for a child to process and leads to healthier motivation.“We cannot” requires an honest conversation about values that needs to be skillfully communicated.

These values are much harder to communicate when the conversation contradicts the life style.

The next story that Gladwell used to further this idea that disadvantages may actually be advantages is the story of Caroline Sacks. Caroline was a very intelligent student and quickly rose to the top of her class in high school.

When touring colleges, she fell in love with The University of Maryland but was admitted to the more prestigious Brown University. She chose Brown over Maryland because society would have her believe that was the right choice, but was it?

Over the course of her first semester, she quickly became aware of how intelligent her peers were and how quickly they mastered the material. She began to feel inadequate. She was a “small fish in a big pond.”

The very thing that made Brown so attractive was contributing to her inadequacy.

She lost confidence in herself and eventually abandoned science, a passion of hers that she had from a very young age, to pursue a less intensive degree in liberal arts. Caroline Sacks experienced “relative deprivation,” which is defined as comparing ourselves to people in the same situation; in other words, the “pond” that we are in is all relative.

When the students around Caroline were succeeding and she was not, her perceived failure was debilitating. If Caroline had chosen the University of Maryland, she believed she would still be pursuing her passion for science because she would have been a “big fish in a little pond.

The likely result is that she would have had more opportunities for success and the confidence to tackle difficult challenges. The prestigious “giant” was not the best choice because the perceived advantage became a disadvantage.

According to Gladwell, the difference between success and failure often is not a matter of intelligence, but rather a problem of confidence.

Gladwell also uses the historical example of the most famous impressionist artists who changed the course of art history because they decided to be a “big fish in a little pond” and consciously decided not to let the world dictate what was acceptable.

In the mid-1800’s, when Paris was at the center of the art world, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro were struggling artists.

Artists had one goal in this era – to be accepted into the “Salon”; to be accepted into the Salon was viewed as the pinnacle of an artist’s career. The Salon “accepted” two thousand paintings every year, and when an artist was accepted, the value of his work soared.

Acceptance, though, came at a cost.

To be accepted into the Salon, artists had to conform to the very specific tastes of the judges. The paintings that were accepted were similar in that they were “microscopically accurate” but lacked expression. It was in this environment, that Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro invented an individual style that they called “Impressionism.”

These impressionists “had an entirely different idea about what constituted art… brush strokes visible… figures were indistinct,” leading spectators to view their art as amateurish.

To gain acceptance, artists were forced to create work that they did not find meaningful.

Also, with the number of paintings accepted every year, their art would be lost in the clutter, making it very hard to stand out. They were “small fish in a big pond.” But, the impressionist group had enough introspection to ask themselves whether the prestige of institutions was in their best interest.

They eventually opened their own exhibit that became wildly successful and revolutionized the art world. In so doing, they decided to be “big fish in a little pond,” where they had the freedom and confidence to make art that aligned with their passion. They realized that the costs of being a “little fish” were too great.

The examples of Caroline Sack and the impressionists beautifully illustrate Gladwell’s point.

The Salon and Brown University were more prestigious and, by the world’s standards, were the right option, but upon closer inspection, the Salon and Brown were giants.

Their prestige was limiting, not enabling.

The apparent disadvantage of being an outlier, the University of Maryland and a personal exhibit, is not a disadvantage at all. Monet was able to weigh “prestige against visibility and selectivity against freedom,” which is something that Caroline Sacks was unable to do.

Gladwell makes the case that we need to challenge the programmed definition of what an advantage is or is not and constantly reevaluate the battles between giants and underdogs. Doing so will allow us to find the disadvantages that can be the very advantage that maximizes our opportunities.

PART TWO:

Theory: Desirable difficulty

Part Two of David and Goliath explains how difficulties can have desirable outcomes when we adapt new skills to make up for the lost “advantage.”

Gladwell questions what really constitutes a disadvantage and whether it should even be avoided. Throughout the chapter, the author proposes that adversity from a “remote miss” creates better outcomes in the long run.

He makes the case that a disorder, such as dyslexia, forces individuals to adapt, and this adaptation can become an enormous advantage because it equips them with the skills to solve problems and process information differently than someone without a similar adversity.

Gladwell relays the story of David Boeis, who was severely inhibited by dyslexia growing up. He was so bad at reading that he was forced to become a great listener just to keep pace with his classmates.

He developed such great listening abilities that he could recite books from memory and pretend he was reading.

His memory became a formidable asset.

Through his struggle, he learned a skill that eventually led to monumental success as a cross examiner in the court room. Boeis went on to become one of the top litigators in the country because he remembered every detail of every testimony.

He listened to the inflection of the witness’ testimony and would pick up on details and contradictions that a normal lawyer could not. His adapted skill set, which he developed in place of his ability to read, led to his success.

While David Boeis was able to confront his limitations, most people are not able to overcome these disabilities; however, those like Boeis, who are able to overcome the “disadvantage” are better off than they would have been without the struggle.

Gladwell opines that

“what is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.”


pg. 113

Dyslexia does not benefit everyone; there are a remarkable number of individuals with dyslexia in prison who were overwhelmed by their failure at mastering the most basic of academic tasks. Yet, this same neurological disorder can have the opposite effect for those that are able to push through.

To further develop his point of desired disadvantages, Gladwell uses another character named Jay Freireich.

Jay was a Hungarian immigrant and the product of a very traumatic childhood.

He lost his dad at a young age to suicide, had an unloving mother, and grew up in abject poverty. However, Jay was gifted academically and eventually became a doctor, but he struggled with interpersonal relationships because he lacked empathy.

A trait attributed to his harsh upbringing. Because Jay had not been shown empathy as a child, he did not know how to express empathy as an adult. However, his harsh upbringing allowed Jay to have the grit and fortitude to focus solely on childhood leukemia.

Jay was quoted saying

“I never sat with a parent and cried about a child dying.”

Most doctors did not last in Jay’s line of work, but because he lacked empathy, combined with an unwavering commitment to his patients, he tried procedures that no one else was willing to try.

Jay’s research was instrumental in bringing about the development of the version of chemotherapy that we know today.

Gladwell concludes that, because of Jay’s adversity, he saved thousands of lives. Jay Freireich’s “remote miss” emboldened him to take actions that no one else would.

Similar to Jay’s individual story, Gladwell draws on the story of 8 million Londoners during World War II, when they lived in fear of Nazi Germany’s daily bombings, which killed 600,000 and wounded 1.2 million.

The Germans’ strategy was to cause mass panic and chaos, but they were wrong about the effect of their bombings because they did not consider the power of near misses. Instead of losing hope, the survivors were encouraged and felt invincible, as if they could survive anything by sheer will.

Londoners were thrown into three categories of people –

  1. people killed
  2. near miss and
  3. remote miss.

Gladwell’s analysis is that the group of people killed were not a factor because the morale of a nation is dictated by the morale of the survivors. While a near miss of the people who experienced the trauma first hand could be debilitating, a remote miss by those who only heard the sirens, saw the planes, and a bomb dropped a block over, had the opposite effect.

Over time, they realized that the only thing to fear was fear itself.

Londoners developed a sense of invincibility through their survival.

Ironically, the Germans’ plan backfired because they did not anticipate the advantage that a remote miss could create. The citizens were not thrown into chaos; rather, they were emboldened with a new-found sense of pride in their country. One event would impact different people based on the degree of trauma.

These difficulties can be profoundly damaging to one group while leaving another better off than before.

Gladwell points to a shocking correlation between extraordinary accomplishments and losing a parent at an early age. The difficulties these children experienced enabled them to accomplish challenges that others were not able to accomplish.

The author concedes that he in no way believes a child should have to lose a parent to be successful, nor does he recommend it, but he makes a case that there is something in the hardship of losing a loved one in formative years that inspires individuals to honor those they lost by having an impact on society.

Gladwell draws the analogy that those who can overcome the loss of a parent can be considered a remote miss. Gladwell sums up his point by stating:

“the existence of these eminent orphans does suggest that, in certain circumstances, a virtue can be made of a necessity.”


pg. 143

In the same way that bombing London had the opposite of the intended effect and instead emboldened the Londoners, Jay’s traumatic childhood gave him the fortitude to turn an apparent disadvantage into an advantage.

Fred Shuttlesworth, a key ally of Martin Luther King Jr., is another historical figure that Gladwell uses to expound on his point.

Shuttlesworth led the fight against racism in Birmingham, Alabama before King arrived. On Christmas morning 1956, his house was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Like the Germans, the KKK was trying to intimidate him into submission, but they misunderstood the difference between a near and a remote miss. Shuttlesworth survived and became more emboldened than ever. When police warned him to leave town, Shuttlesworth’s response was:

“Well officer, you are not me, go back and tell your Klan brothers that if the Lord saved me from this, I’m here for the duration. The fight is just beginning.”


pg. 150

Similarly, Wyatt Walker served as another one of King’s allies, working behind the scenes and making decisions that no one else would.

King was the overwhelming underdog.

However, he was from a community that has always been an underdog. One that was used to battling Goliaths, like Bull Connor, the racist Birmingham police chief. The African American culture told stories of “trickster heroes,” such as Brer Rabbit, who used his wits to outsmart his larger opponents and escape unfavorable situations.

The civil rights movement needed a national push to have an impact.

The strategy was to find the means to create a crisis to make “racist Alabama” tip their hand. Wyatt’s role was to be Brer Rabbit and create mischief and confrontation, luring Bull Connor into exposing the South’s ugly side to the world.

The plan was to put 1,000 people in jail simultaneously and overcrowd the jail so that the authorities could no longer hide the problem. Wyatt created illusions of mass rallies by strategically holding them at times when they would attract the most spectators who would appear to be “participants.”

With 16 true participants, the papers reported 1,400.

Eventually, Walker began recruiting children of the age of 16 to take part, and he used any resource he could think of to get as many kids out in the streets as possible. Walker knew Connor was itching to use his K-9 corps, and everyone in King’s camp knew what it would look like if someone published a photograph of a police dog lunging at a child.

After a calculated instigation, the famous picture was captured and published on the front page of every newspaper around the country.

Blinded by his perceived advantages, the “giant” Bull Connor was unable to see the true strategy and was not motivated to understand his enemy. The black community was not a trickster by nature but by necessity of their disadvantage.

Understanding their enemy was essential to their survival.

They knew Bull Connor’s hubris and used his force against him.

Learning differences, like dyslexia, can destroy opportunities and create an uneven playing field or they can force people to compensate by developing skills that can prove to be advantageous. Being bombed can be a near miss experience that traumatizes or a remote miss that emboldens. An unsupportive childhood can leave one hopeless or it can create a relentless drive to serve and accomplish.

Gladwell’s last lesson of desirable difficulty is the freedom to change the rules when you have nothing else to lose that only underdogs possess.

According to Gladwell:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”


pg. 117

PART THREE:

Theory: The limits of power.

Gladwell illuminates another paradox of power and strength; when they are overused, they become a weakness. To do this, Gladwell uses the example of the Protestant oppression of Catholics in Northern Ireland.

In the 1970s, every Catholic residing in the neighborhood of Ballymurphy in West Belfast lived in fear of Protestant terrorism. Despite the British Army’sintent to defuse tensions, they made the situation worse because of their predominantly Protestant ties.

Tensions between the two warring factions soared, which led to curfews and the threat that anyone suspected of terroristic activity would be sent to jail or shot.

A report by two prominent economists supported the army’s strategy, which opined that the solution to discourage criminal activity was to raise the punishment to the level in which the cost of the crime was no longer worth committing the crime.

The belief system was to use strength to overpower insurgents until order was created.

When the riots escalated from throwing rocks to gasoline bombs, the British made a critical mistake – they fell into the trap of believing that demonstrating their strength of resources, weapons, soldiers, and experience would discourage the insurgency. However, the insurgency only escalated because the British Army did not understand when law is applied in the absence of legitimacy, it does not produce obedience.

By the mid-1970s, the British instituted internment and suspended civil rights. Every Catholic household in Northern Ireland had been searched twice on average and ten or more times in some neighborhoods.

One in four Catholic men in Northern Ireland between the ages of sixteen and forty-four were arrested at least once. The British army employed an overused strength. Their strength of power and military dominance empowered the insurgents and became a weakness.

At some point, people in this situation are not going to think “rationally.”

The Catholics were so outnumbered and out manned, being arrested or killed became a badge of honor they wore proudly. Gladwell’s point is that, at some point, even the best-intentioned application of power and authority begins to backfire.

Gladwell contrasted Wilma Derksen as a present-day example of a strength being controlled.

A month after Wilma’s daughter was abducted, authorities found her dead in a shed with tied wrists and ankles. After her daughter’s funeral, a man, who lost his own child, shared his destructive experience. He was on medications, lost his wife, and was completely consumed by his distress.

Wilma saw this man as a warning and resolved to avoid living the rest of her life like this man.

The next day, Wilma chose to forgive the murderer at a press conference. Wilma’s Mennonite faith is based on “forgiving your trespassers so that you may be forgiven.”

Wilma chose not to indulge her vengeful desires because she witnessed that it would be all-consuming and cause her to miss important things she had before her. Wilma began seeing the benefits of forgiveness by understanding that strength fueled by vengeance is pointless because it only causes destruction.

Mike Reynold’s daughter was also murdered; but, unlike Wilma, he chose to use the strength of his story to incite change. The perpetrator was a repeat offender on parole. Mike promised his daughter on her death bed that he would never allow something like this to happen again.

Mike believed the penalties for repeat offenders were too low.

In his mind, by increasing the penalty, crime could be deterred. He created the three strikes rule that resulted in 25 years to life after your third offense regardless of crime.

At first, crime rates went down, but then people were being incarcerated 25 years for non-violent crimes. When researchers reviewed the data more closely, they found that the new law was destroying homes in impoverished communities and did nothing to address the real issue behind violent crimes. It was also costing the state government millions of dollars to hold more prisoners for such an extended period.

Moreover, prison actually has an inverse effect on crime because it decreases employment opportunities and increases the financial strain on families. Research showed that if more than two percent of the neighborhood goes to prison in any given neighborhood, the number of people sent to prison compared with the crime rate in that same neighborhood begins to reverse.

Gladwell summed up the contrasting the stories of Wilma and Mike as follows:

“When a man employs the full power of the state in his grief, he ends up plunging his government into a fruitless and costly experiment. A woman who walks away from the promise of power finds the strength to forgiveand saves her friendship, her marriage, and her sanity. The world is turned upside down.”


pg.262

When we compare these cases, the limits of strength are illustrated.

More is not always better.

Society would have us believe that the more powerful we are, the stronger we are. This greatest “advantage” only serves to make things worse.

The British created chaos by extreme responses of power and authority designed to restore order. The three strikes law lowered the rate of crime but, paradoxically, increased the number of violent crimes while also costing the state of California millions of dollars.

The limits of power require that those in positions of authority accept that what they thought of as their greatest advantage has real constraints.

Society would have us believe that disadvantages create underdogs, intellectual differences destroy opportunities, and strength has no bounds. Malcolm Gladwell effectively challenges these presumptions by explaining the cost of having an advantage and the freedom that is given in a “disadvantage.”

Underdogs can change the rules of engagement to fit their terms and catch “giants” off guard.

Gladwell uses history to defy the presumption that intellectual differences end with hardships. He adds that the adaptations in place of inadequacies can serve as advantageous benefits when opportunities present themselves. Gladwell also communicates that strengths have limits and, when overused, will turn into a disadvantage.

CONCLUSION

While David and Goliath is more about inaccurate societal beliefs and personal behaviors and less about business strategy, it provides valuable insights to some of the patterns of the human experience that underly their success, both as individuals and as groups.

The book is an important tool for business leaders to engage their clients and employees in difficult conversations about their beliefs as well as how to channel negatives into positives and to avoid the temptation of overusing their strengths, and, thus, creating a weakness.

HookedtoBooks.com would like to thank the Titans of Investing for allowing us to publish this content. Titans is a student organization founded by Britt Harris. Learn more about the organization and the man behind it by clicking either of these links.

Britt always taught us Titans that Wisdom is Cheap, and principal can find treasure troves of the good stuff in books. We hope only will also express their thanks to the Titans if the book review brought wisdom into their lives.

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