David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell [Book Summary – Review]

You must have heard the tale of David and Goliath in the Bible: a small shepherd boy wins against a huge and powerful warrior as he’s got his wits and a precisely pointed shot from his reliable sling. This tale is usually recounted as an instance of the way people who are considered as the weaker party can be successful, no matter how engulfing the chances can be.

However, can we really say David was the weaker party in his fight against Goliath in the Valley of Elah?

Actually, no.

As you can notice, the sling is in fact a very powerful weapon, since it can throw rocks at foes at destructive rapidity, without any need to approach the opponent so that he can wield his sword. Moreover, David was adept at his sling since it was necessary for him to protect his herd against predators. Furthermore, Goliath’s hugeness followed probably from a medical situation that would have caused his eyesight to become blurry.

Thus, actually, there was nothing Goliath could do. David defeated him with a rock and later beheaded him wielding Goliath’s own sword.

This summary will teach you that our understanding of the weaker party can be fallacious sometimes, and we might not assess correctly who has the upper hand in many circumstances.

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Chapter 1 – When we try to make contrasts with very successful peers, it hurts our self-esteem and prevents us from achieving our complete potential.

From being a child to being an adult, people adjust to much huger schools, starting with primary school and then to secondary and it continues like this. At every level, people meet more of their peers, most of whom possess talents others don’t possess.

Seeing our fellow pupils whose talents exceed those of ours, we crave to rival directly against them and begin to take our seats among the elite; people want their level to be equal to that of the best. However, this idea is fallacious. When people race against the most intelligent people, people sense comparative loss. When we make our comparisons with more intelligent fellow pupils instead of with all the other people, it leads us to lose self-esteem in the facilities we possess.

When people lose self-esteem because they want to participate in the elite, they usually end up with failure in accomplishing everything they want. For instance, skillful students who choose to go to elite colleges and race with the very best are a lot prone to leave college than those who prefer to go to a less elite university.

Thus, should racing against the elite harm our self-esteem, what action should we take rather than competition?

People should cease making efforts to compare themselves with the best and rather, their objective should creating opportunities themselves. To put it differently, people shouldn’t allow the desire for peer acceptance to divert us from our individual desires. There are many people in history who, instead of racing against the best, made a successful career for their own.

To illustrate, take the Paris Salon of the 19th century, which was the most elite art exhibition on the Continent. Artworks displayed in the Paris Salon had a huge quantity of viewers and their price soared. Early Impressionist artists made efforts to get their artwork displayed at the Salon, however, their efforts were in vain: the elite didn’t accept their avant-garde style. Rather, they no longer made efforts to fascinate the elite and displayed their artworks themselves – which was a huge success.

Had those impressionists allowed the Salon to command how their works should be, those impressionist painters couldn’t have winded up altering the course of art history.

Chapter 2 – If a kid grows up in exclusive circles, it is possible for such circles to prevent a kid from getting important life lessons.

People believe that if a kid has more affluent parents and gets more elite education, it begins to be simpler for a kid to grow up well and wholesome. But, if someone comes from an elite circle above a specific level, the outcome can be different from the ideal.

This demonstrates itself when a family possesses a lot of money, leading their children not to get sufficient independence. Since it’s possible for children to hinge on their family’s richness for the rest of their lives, they grow up unaware of the significance of toil and thinking for oneself.

To illustrate, a child coming from a poverty-stricken and thrifty family can get severe but important lessons when it comes to money by assisting to pay for things or by giving his assistance to his parents in the family business. This will help this child to obtain capacities or to set up his own businesses so that he can save himself from hardship. However, when he achieves success, it won’t be possible for him to teach his own kids the importance of money since his kids won’t experience the same sort of economic hardships as he did.

It is possible for too much privilege to render it more difficult for children to learn.

For instance, most elite education usually is proud of the fact that they can provide education for small class groups. When there are forty pupils in a class, not all pupils are able to draw the attention of the instructor, who has a tone of workload to finish; however, if there are fewer pupils in a class, pupils can take advantage of more attention, and their marks thus get better.

However, there is no certain guarantee that they’ll be academically very successful: When the number of pupils is twelve or less in a class, pupils won’t have classmates who can teach them something and with whom they can interact. This case has not been addressed enough or there are different opinions about it.

Thus, although exclusive elite schools tempt parents with their classrooms for fewer pupils, their kids won’t have the chance to experience a diverse and lively learning atmosphere. This is one other ramification of growing up with a lot of privilege.

Chapter 3 – It is possible that learning problems render reading laborious, however, people who’ve got this sort of difficulty can obtain perfect talents somewhere else.

Take this question, for instance: Suppose that a bat and a ball’s total price is $1.10, and the bat’s price is $1 more than that of the ball, what’s the price of the ball then?

Your answer is most likely that the ball’s price is ten cents, however, this is incorrect. Actually, the correct solution is five cents.

One reason as to why most people say the erroneous answer follows from the fact that you read the problem too fast and impetuously. Thus, people cannot notice the meaning or nuance in the question.

Actually, should you be forced to read more slowly, you won’t make such stupid blunders anymore.

For instance, the bat and ball problem is taken from an intelligence test that several students at the famous Princeton University took. In their normal situation, the average grade was 1.9 out of 3. But, after the test font became more difficult to read, the students were compelled to study the problem more thoroughly. The outcome? their grade sprang up to 2.45 on average.

Astonishingly, this indicates that people with learning difficulties like dyslexia will actually be more successful in solving these sorts of problems since they are forced to read much slower. In fact, their disability can be beneficial for them to acquire abilities in other fields – abilities that others lack.

For instance, David Boies is among the most influential lawyers in the USA. He has got dyslexia. For him, reading is extremely hard, thus he acquired the skill to listen very well and can keep in mind what people say. Even if he reads just summaries of cases, his remarkable memory and unique skill to recognize tiny hesitations in witnesses’ talks assists him to attack areas in which they attempt to hide something.

Boies’ difficulty with understanding what he reads gave him surprising advantages, like finer hearing and more profound thought.

Chapter 4 – Traumatic events that someone goes through push the same person towards attaining huge achievements via enhanced bravery and resilience.

The prominent authors Keats, Wordsworth, and Swift possessed something that each of them had: all of their parents passed away prior to their adulthood. However, except for them, there are quite many people who have experienced the same trauma. One of the parents of a huge amount of well-known people, from biologists to presidents of the United States, passed away early. Indeed, one research on the individuals about whom there are encyclopedia entries thanks to their accomplishments discovered that an unbelievable almost five tenth of them had lost a parent by the time they were twenty-year-old.

Perhaps, you believe a trauma like this would ruin their future chances in life, however, rather, it looks like they have acquired a huge impulse to create an outstanding professional life.

The reason for this is that most of us have the urge toward being a genius since we need to make efforts to pull through unfavorable situations. Thus, although losing a parent is profoundly harming to psychological health, this event can spur people’s urge toward being successful. Actually, since it is possible that people can be motivated after traumas, people who live their childhood and youth with the care and assistance of their parents might not possess as much ambition and resilience as the people who have lost a parent early. Therefore, we usually notice tremendous levels of innovation and accomplishment from those who went through a tough upbringing.

It is possible to observe a more elaborate instance of this in the life of medical scientist Erik Freireich, who achieved a lot of things.

Freireich’s father killed himself when he was a small child, abandoning his family to severe indigence and emotional struggles. Resolved to no longer stay in this environment, Freireich studied diligently and started his career as a physician. His craving to rectify the wrongs of his upbringing pushed him to continue the search for success. For many years, Freireich worked on creating leukemia treatments to enhance the situation of people with leukemia, and finally created a broadly utilized treatment for childhood leukemia, which has a cure rate of nine-tenth

The tragic event in Freireich’s upbringing was crucial in forming his never-giving-up character and determination.

Chapter 5 – Underdogs have the potential to reverse the odds and to attain achievement by using unorthodox methods.

You might have noticed a lot of movies and read a number of novels in which the underdog triumphs. However, in reality, we see this barely. In a direct confrontation, opponents who have far better means and wealth triumph against the weaker party almost any time they encounter.

However, although they can’t expect to defeat more powerful adversaries in direct confrontation, they have a greater possibility of victory should they use unorthodox methods.

One of the best instances of this can be seen in the history of war. There have been many wars in which small armies that have few means have overcome more powerful armies by not engaging in direct battle but rather, employing more deceitful strategies like sabotaging transport and communication channels. Employing strategies such as these, many underdogs have been triumphant in a great number of wars where their odds were too low compared to the anticipated victors. One research discovered that underdogs left the battlefield triumphant in six-tenth of battles by employing guerrilla tactics like these whereas leaving the battlefield triumphant in three-tenth of battles when utilizing traditional tactics.

Then, by which way do underdogs determine which unorthodox means to utilize?

They choose the unorthodox means by concentrating on their own peculiar attributes; they enhance their own powerful sides to the optimum while evading conditions that would favor their rivals’ powerful sides.

In 1917, for example, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) commanded a small number of Arabs, most of whom didn’t know how to combat the powerful Turks. While the Turks were well-trained and had fine equipment, many Arabs had never held a rifle prior to 1917, however, they were adept at light-traveling and knew where water could be found in the desert. Thus, the Arabs created the condition in which their odds of winning would be higher. Instead of going to an important port city via ship as the Turks anticipated that they would do, they employed their abilities to come out from the harsh Syrian desert, which was something the Turks didn’t expect. These tactics allowed them to triımph and push their opponent out of the city.

This shows that underdogs can take advantage of concentrating on their own unique powerful sides instead of facing their rivals in conditions favorable to their powerful sides.

Chapter 6 – The cunning tactics of the Civil Rights Movement demonstrate the way tricks and deception are crucial means in an underdog’s weaponry.

The US Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s enjoys a fairly virtuous and honest image in contemporary times. However, while fighting to succeed in their lofty objectives and beating a strong opponent, the Movement usually employed tricky and misleading methods to be triumphant despite their low chances.

The Movement employed deception in various ways and one of them was to make the authorities and the society believe the Movement was more numerous than they actually were.

For instance, since there were only a few protesters who participated in arranged rallies, people who organized rallies did not make any protest until when people’s shifts at their works were over and they were leaving their workplace so that the protests would appear as if workers participated in the protest. They convinced children in their circles no to go to the school and partake in protests. Thus, the police force thought that many more protestors took to the streets, which was wrong.

The protestors were aware that they needed to be taken earnestly, they had to be viewed as if they were numerous and strong. However, they were aware that numbers wouldn’t be sufficient, too. In order to attract attention, their message had to be published everywhere in the media.

This time as well, they employed techniques of deception and manipulation to accomplish this aim.

At the time of the same civil rights demonstrations, protesters provoked the police to make them respond violently – especially when there were photographers around. The police shot them with water cannons and hauled children off to prison cells. While acting as if they had been shocked over police harshness, the protestors privately rejoiced the media attention.

Well, this media attention substantially served their purpose. For instance, a photo of a kid assaulted by a police German Shepherd made it to the front-page in the media, leading to perturbation in the White House and resulting straight in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

These important occasions demonstrate that shrewd ruses, like employing lies and deception to make others think you’re stronger, are usually vital if we encounter a stronger opponent.

Chapter 7 – In order to fulfill our objectives, people have to be poised to venture and hurt the feelings of people in our circles.

Think about a world where people blindly accepted whatever they learned as true, or that they accepted all power or yielded to pressure from peers. Such a place would considerably dull and unenthusiastic since we couldn’t find anyone to develop something new or have unique thoughts.

Rather, revolutions and innovations take place thanks to people scornful of social norms and without any worries as to how people see them – those who are hard to get along with.

To illustrate, look at this: one research using the Five-Factor Model test of character employed by psychologists revealed that entrepreneurs possessed, along with other characteristic attributes, large numbers of disagreeableness. The research demonstrated that most businesspeople achieved their level of success by trying their luck with social gambles and showing the audacity not to discredit their views. Although they could simply have been ignored by their peers and barred from occupying seats of authority and influence, they still ventured out to be successful.

Thus, should you crave to attain success, you need to be poised to bother people. You have to make efforts to set the center of your own belief stage. When you stop thinking about how others would think of you, you achieve the single-mindedness required for those who want to fulfill their goals.

Take the case of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad as an example. Twenty years after the end of World War 2, he confronted with pressure from Swedish furniture producers who were furious about IKEA’s unbelievably economic products. Due to this reason, IKEA was boycotted by suppliers, and the danger of economic collapse for IKEA was at the doorstep. But, Kamprad was poised to undertake something no one would think as acceptable: he engaged in business actions with communist Poland during the climax years of the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. When there was affront over the construction of the Berlin Wall everywhere, this move could have stamped him as a collaborator – however, he reaped the seeds of his venture, and IKEA expanded greatly thanks to his actions.

Therefore, the huge success of IKEA became attainable by Kamprad’s bold indifference for social acceptance.

Chapter 8 – Rather than deterring people from committing a crime, extreme and severe sentences, actually, worsen it.

Not all underdogs end up turning into huge accomplishments or establishing multi-billion dollar corporations. When one lacks many privileges in society, it usually indicates that one is destitute, and the shady aspect of indigence is that it can from time to time cause crime. Even in this case, we encounter a David vs. Goliath case: the government that resembles Goliath is intended to reduce crime and usually do it by taking radical steps to achieve this goal. However, what is the reason for taking this kind of step? Are these policies efficient?

There are economists who discuss that since the actions of people are rational, it is possible to determine law and order through mathematics. What they put forward is that everything is nothing but a matter of calculating costs and benefits.  

According to this theory, crime and civil disorder can decline only if the cost of undertaking these is sufficiently huge and that more severe sentences would be the answer to such issues. However, this doesn’t work like this.

Hauling more people off to prison hasn’t been shown to reduce crime. On the contrary, it causes crime to go up. One research demonstrated that when more than two-hundredth of people in a neighborhood are hauled off to prison in one year, more people would commit a crime the next year. People who stay behind – kids, brothers, and sisters; wives or husbands – are drawn into a terrible condition both psychologically and financially, leading to a more weak community. Moreover, the kids whose parents were put into prison are more prone to become criminals since there is no longer an influential role model and economic security.

Actually, too harsh punishment on the officials’ role for civil disorder causes a cycle of worsening violence. For instance, back in the 70s, the UK government reacted to the denominational conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by using abrupt and too harsh tactics against the Catholics who were a minority. They ransacked the houses a lot of times, incarcerated suspects for an indefinite time and the Catholics were tried. Furthermore, the government enforced a curfew that hindered residents’ freedom.

Since the British government acted as if every Catholic in the region was a suspect, they caused young adults to grow more radical, strengthening their war against the British. The government reaction did not reduce violence but engendered a lot more; there were culminating levels of gunfights, killings, and bombings. The culmination of the Northern Ireland Troubles was aggravated by the reaction of the government, which inflamed more denominational violence.

What we can accomplish with harsh sentences has its boundaries, and this tactic might not pay off the expected good result and actually end up fueling violence and crime.

Chapter 9 – People flout authorities they regard as foes, however, are dutiful to those whom they regard as just and humane.

Many people like to think that authorities should be involved just with determining and enforcing the law, not with the opinions of citizens about it. However, actually, this isn’t even close to the truth.

When authorities are viewed as an enemy, people will have the tendency to disregard their laws. For instance, One research on black males who came to the world in the 1970s demonstrates that as numerous as seven-tenth of them who left school served some time in jail. Severe sentences are given to one community-led most of the people to see the police force and legal system as unjust and not representing them. The close circle and family members of the incarcerated men consider it a venerable duty to defy the authorities that separated them from their beloved ones.

Thus, it is essential for authorities that desire to reduce crime not to be regarded as adversaries. One thing that can be carried out to achieve this is attainable through interacting with them on their level. When people view authorities as more humane, behavioral issues with citizens will be possible to solve.

For instance, in 2003 a New York police force established a post inside a housing project replete with young criminals so as to address the issue from close. The police officers had to chance to learn about several of the youngs more than their parents knew about them; they presented their assistance to have them return to school and with their employment and well-being. Although it wasn’t easy at first, the officers, who went as far as to offer Thanksgiving turkeys to all people, eventually curried favor with people who stayed there. The outcome was a huge decline in robbery and other offenses since they no longer regarded the cops as foes.

So, all of us must guarantee that those who wield authority act fairly, and that they become the voice for people who believe there isn’t any for them.

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

Authority, financial affluence, and health don’t guarantee success. After passing a particular threshold, most assumed upper hands, such as expanded wealth and private education, began to turn into obstacles. In contrast, assumed obstacles, like learning difficulties or tragic childhood events, can impel people towards a more glorious accomplishment. Underdogs usually surmount their greatly favored competitors by means of indirect, unorthodox, or tricky tactics. Once authorities are perceived as legitimate, the underdogs and marginalized people in society will begin thriving.

Choose your own path.

People are always influenced by what other people think of them. People want to get validation and create methods to gain an advantage not just over friends but also over enemies. Families, instructors, career advisers, and politicians seem as if they are trying to do whatever is the best for us, however, when people obey them without any question raised at their power, people usually wind up being disappointed and disillusioned. Rather, by not caring to follow your peers and choosing your own path, you can see where your true enthusiasms are and find satisfaction. Don’t avert from harming others’ feelings so as to do something new.

Take action to inflame positive transformation.

Everybody has their flaws. All of us have defects or recollections that we’d rather they never existed. However, instead of allowing our inner voice to bother us all the time, it is possible to discover another solution. People can turn into players in their lives, creating for themselves novel roles, deciding on the thing they want to do or be, and on the place they want to maintain their lives or work. Be successful in a business interview through tricks, bluff to the media, even disobey officials should this act be fulfilled in the long term. What we have experienced as young people may affect who we are, however it doesn’t have to command our actions. Nothing is immutable.

Give your assistance to those who are less lucky to develop more equality.

When you find yourself in search of carrying out a meaningful deed, think about giving your assistance to the outsiders and marginalized in society. Most of us have huge potentials but cannot fulfill our potential due to not getting a good education, wholesome, or financially in a good position. However, most delegates we choose to send to the parliament obtained every favorable opportunity in life and continue to be corrupt or fallacious. Be the voice of the underdogs and those who are unlucky to rectify this inequality in power.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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