The Advantage

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In Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants he illuminates many ways in which the underdog actually has the upper hand. ‘The book is about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. ‘Giants’ are powerful opponents such as oppression, misfortune, and disabilities.’ As often is the case, it’s all about perspective; and certainly after reading this book, it’s all about the details. What we perceive as being a weakness can be used as an advantage.

An example (I thought of) is the strengthening of all other faculties when one is shut down or useless, think Stevie Wonder’s music acumen even though blind. Or when we break a limb, we are forced to over-compensate with the other, thus making the one we use super strong, or ambidextrous. Had the ambidexterity been used as an example in the book, Gladwell would’ve surely gone on to discuss a basketball player only using one hand during an entire game. He points out autistic kids becoming big-shot CEO’s of companies or a dyslexic guy really profiting in the bond market, trading options. The biggest fallacy he flips on its head is classroom size. Our instinct is to think, the smaller the better. A teacher has a better chance of one-on-one time. But what (inverted U-graph) statistics and numerous teacher interviews reveal, this is not the case. There is a point where a classroom is too large to manage; actually, the comfortable medium is best. For children to learn and thrive, a certain dynamic is required amongst peers. There needs to be enough input and diversity from all types in the classroom. The smaller classroom actually hinders most children from feeling safe enough to express without feeling under the spotlight. In the same educational theme, he points out the difficulty in excelling at a strength like science, when we are excepted into an Ivy League school with other brilliant minds. Had we just stuck to that state school and not felt so much pressure to compete, maybe we would’ve continued to enjoy learning science and made an engineering career out of it instead of feeling like we were competing with all these other brilliant minds and dropped the course for something else. Sadly, we still love science :/ This is coined ‘relative deprivation’. A similar example (I thought of) is when a chef goes to culinary school and wants to immediately start cooking in a kitchen in a big city. It is very hard for a chef to get personal recognition while in competition with other already established chefs. A faster way to make a name for one’s self is start working in a smaller town. If the skills are up to snuff, you’ll sooner be the bigger name in town than trying to be a known name in a place like New York City. Then, take that resume on to a big city.

220px-Osmar_Schindler_David_und_GoliathGladwell goes on to cover things from affirmative action to IKEA furniture. I have read all of his books, and though this is another super informative thought-provoking read, it’s actually my least favorite. The final straw is the ending. It’s abrupt; like, drop off a cliff. I’ve read 40 books already this year and I can’t think of one which ended like so. There’s no wrap-up or concluding sentences. It’s as if he gives one final example then decides he’s done writing.

Ok then, Im done with this review. If you’re a fan of his work, you will want to get ahold of this one regardless. I’ll let him share the context for which and why the classic David and Goliath story is used.

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