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The Other Revolutionary Malcolm: Malcolm Gladwell and Winning Uneven Fights

  • Aug 3, 2013
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Rating:
+4

Malcolm Gladwell will have a new book out this fall, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants


Here's the bumph from his publisher Little, Brown. "Malcolm Gladwell,...
uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed. Gladwell examines the battlefields of Northern Ireland and Vietnam, takes us into the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, and digs into the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms–all in an attempt to demonstrate how fundamentally we misunderstand the true meaning of advantages and disadvantages."

Sounds fascinating, and right up Gladwell's alley, which usually involves a well-researched message that is aimed in part at the business world, but which can be read in a most subversive manner. 

Maybe it’s not surprising that someone like him who had a poster of Ronald Reagan in  his dorm room at the University of Toronto is making a lot of money today. His last book Outliers: The Story of Success sold for around $4 million, while it and his two others The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference  and  Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking  were all  on The Globe and Mail and The New York Times best seller lists for months.  He reportedly makes $30,000 a pop for telling conferences of business types how to improve performance and foster innovation, too.  Nevertheless if you read just a little beneath the surface of the books and his articles in The New Yorker, you’ll see that he’s really calling for society-wide change nearly far reaching as what that other Malcolm, Malcolm X, advocated.
   
The Tipping Point started out as in The New Yorker as “The Cool Hunt,”  an examination of how trends start, how styles race through society like epidemics.  “A must read for any marketing professional" according its lead review on Amazon.com,  the book can be read as a guide to getting people to buy or to act: small groups work best, pick plugged-in spokesmen, work to make your message “sticky.”

Blink considers how we’re hard-wired to react instantaneously, which was great for our ancestors back on the savannah when a lion might suddenly roar nearby. In our fast-paced life today that’s not so good: culturally-engrained prejudices can trump reasoned evaluations in tight situations. Gladwell, whose father is a white Englishman and whose mother is an African-Jamaican, says the idea for the book came to him when he grew an Afro and started getting ticketed for speeding.  Social contexts should be changed so we’re not forced to rely on first impressions, he writes.  That’s good for creativity—and also social justice.

 The Outliers argues that success itself is based on a mixture of chance and hard work.  Change the rules to make the playing field more level—don’t throw all the kids born in a calendar year together when they start a sport, for example, because that gives the ones born in January a big leg up over those born in December.  Then tweak the cultural context to value hard work, and you increase the chance of success exponentially.  The result will be more “outliers,” people whose accomplishment is extraordinarily high, Gladwell says.

He, of course, is an outlier, and the story he tells about his own family in Outliers illustrates nicely his arguments.  But he could also  point to a man who called himself an outlier long before Gladwell’s book was published: Barak Obama (p. 18 in the Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.  If you look at Obama and his electrifying campaigns for the US presidency, you see Gladwell’s fingerprints everywhere—the kitchen meetings, the great slogans, the hard work, the hope held out.  Whether the  president has read Gladwell’s writing himself isn’t clear, but you can bet the farm his staff has.

Which probably makes Gladwell smile as he rakes in the royalties and the speaking fees.    The marketers and business types may not have noticed, but he’s intended a social revolution all along  “The hope with Tipping Point was it would help the reader understand that real change was possible,” he writes on his website. “With Blink, I wanted to get people to take the enormous power of their intuition seriously. My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is. When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It's because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances— and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds—and how many of us succeed—than we think. That's an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea.”
  
 Right on, Malcolm!  Can't wait to read what he has to say this time.

The photo, BTW, is of the high point of his running career when he beat Dave Read, "the greatest Canadian miler of his generation" in finals of the 1500 meters at the Ontario 14-year-old championships. Gladwell writes "I "retired" from competitive running a year later, in large part because I realized that the particular statistical fluke represented by me beating Dave Reid was unlikely to ever be repeated. "

Obviously he's a man who's been considering the odds and what it takes to be successful for a long time.

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August 03, 2013
Thanks for sharing.
 
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More Outliers: The Story of Success reviews
review by . July 15, 2010
The common conception is that success is based upon intelligence: Orientals are more intelligent, therefore they excel in academics; the poor, living in slums, are not bright, therefore they achieve little or no success. Gladwell demonstrates with many examples that his notion is wrong.             Scientists have found that the people of Roseto, for example, of Italian descent, live longer than their neighbors or their ancestors because they …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Great book! Very motivating and an interesting study in social economics. Really made me want to read more by Malcolm Gladwell.
review by . May 24, 2010
Is Malcolm Gladwell just stating the obvious when he says really successful people achieve their success through a series of advantages? He labels such people as "outliers," a use of the word not sanctioned by the English dictionary. He's not interested in run-of-the-mill kinds of success, but of really huge kinds of success, like Bill Gates or The Beatles. Let me begin by saying that I found this book fascinating, and made my way through its 285 pages rapidly, eager to see what was on the next …
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
I absolutely love this book! Gladwell explores the various ways and circumstances that allow people to be successful or not. Very interesting, as can be expected!
Quick Tip by . April 17, 2010
I loved Outliers - if you liked it you'll probably like Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics...as well as Gladwell's other books, of course.
review by . December 14, 2009
As many people at work were raving about this book I needed to read it for myself. I was a little reluctant at first because of some of the Amazon reviews saying that Gladwell culled information from a lot of studies and that the reader would be better served going to some of those studies themsleves.       Gladwell has done an excellent job of poring through mountains of data and presented many of these studies in a concise way that can be understood by any layman. Most of the …
review by . December 14, 2009
As many people at work were raving about this book I needed to read it for myself. I was a little reluctant at first because of some of the Amazon reviews saying that Gladwell culled information from a lot of studies and that the reader would be better served going to some of those studies themsleves.    Gladwell has done an excellent job of poring through mountains of data and presented many of these studies in a concise way that can be understood by any layman. Most of the …
review by . February 08, 2010
The common conception is that success is based upon intelligence: Orientals are more intelligent, therefore they excel in academics; the poor, living in slums, are not bright, therefore they achieve little or no success. Gladwell demonstrates with many examples that his notion is wrong.   Scientists have found that the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania, for example, of Italian descent, live longer than their neighbors or their Italian ancestors because they socialize, and the socialization …
Quick Tip by . December 10, 2009
Reading it right now based on so many of my collegues at work raving about it. After about 75 pages it rates four stars.
review by . June 07, 2009
Outliers is an excellent little book on what makes people extremely successful.  It turns out that luck (or opportunities) and hard work are the keys to extreme success.  In Outliers Gladwell provides numerous examples in sports, business, arts, and other endeavors that prove this hypothesis.  This is a well written, extremely insightful, and interesting look at the real stories behind success.
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Ranked #96
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question inOutliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outlierscan be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0316017922
ISBN-13: 978-0316017923
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: Business & Investing, Health, Mind & Body, Nonfiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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