David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
By Malcom Gladwell
Review by Dr. John Stanko, MSOL faculty
Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book continues his trend of producing thoughtful, thought-provoking and insightful books that examine success and the reasons it was and is achieved. As in his previous books, The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2007) and Outliers (2008), Gladwell’s perspective is unique and well-documented. His basic premise in David and Goliath is that competitive advantage may not be what it appears to be. He begins with some fresh, imaginative (although not totally borne out by Scripture itself) insight into the biblical story of David and Goliath and concludes that David defeated Goliath because he refused to compete on the giant’s terms - David set his own. From there, Gladwell examines other historical examples - Martin Luther King, Jr., Lawrence of Arabia - as well as some lesser known figures today - Dr. Emil Freireich (who discovered treatments for childhood leukemia) - to show how these supposed underdogs and least likely candidates competed and succeeded in their spheres of influence. Of interest to those in education is Gladwell’s premise that admission to supposedly superior schools like the Ivy League can actually hinder academic and professional success as opposed to enrollment in less prestigious schools, where students can develop confidence and grow in their field of endeavor. Gladwell even makes a case that a learning disability like dyslexia can actually be a competitive advantage later in life due to the need to develop better listening and problem-solving skills to overcome that ‘disadvantage.’ There is a reason Gladwell’s books are best-sellers, for they are both easy to read, engaging and informative. When you read Gladwell, you have to think, which is why I would recommend this book to any and all of our graduates and current students.