Malcolm Gladwell

I have become a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing.  He has been publishing books for at least a decade. His books are a collection of his observations about the world, especially how humans interact with each other, their personalities and just how the world works in general.  It’s a blend of his own observations and social science research, as he seeks to explain to the reader in layman terms the reasons behind these observations.   He is also a terrific writer.  He writes in a way that keeps the reader engaged so that one feels like he is really in a conversation with you.  I have not read all of his books, but based on the few that I have read or started, there are certainly policy implications from his research. Gladwell’s books have a tendency to make you think about the world in a different way.  As such, his popularity as a writer has lingered.

One of his best works, in my opinion,  is “Outliers” and  I am currently working on “David and Goliath”.  In “Outliers”, Gladwell sheds light on the differences between the extraordinary people and the ordinary people, a timeless question that has been the subject of research in psychology and genetics.    What separates the extraordinarily talented people and the “less” talented (the rest of us) is not necessarily genetics, but a set of environmental factors that could influence a child’s intellectual and personality development. Much of the environment comes from home.  The “10,000 hour” rule is the standard by which the extraordinary is measured.  The examples of Bill Gates (because this book was written before Steve Jobs became popular) and the founders of the international law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld demonstrate that extraordinary success in computing and business/law respectively is a result of early influence.   The skills you develop early in life will never be taken away from you.

In “David and Goliath”, Gladwell reassures his readers that being a small player does not necessarily mean facing a life time of obstacles and hurdles; being a big player does not always guarantee success.  For example, wealth is not good predictor of a child’s success in life, so all parents be warned.  An exclusive school with small classrooms has no bearing on a student’s achievement past a certain point.  It is all about finding that middle ground regardless of your size, whether it’s the money in your bank account or your athletic prowess.  His book provides a reminder that life is okay after all.   Being small/disadvantaged might be your greatest asset because it pushes you to face your fears, a challenge that the Goliaths in the world may never get a chance to take on.