David and Goliath operates on a simple metaphor—given the right tools, outlook, and creativity, the underdog is certainly capable of beating the giant. Throughout the narrative, Gladwell hammers this point home via a series of anecdotes that work (to varying degrees) to illustrate the larger point that we’re probably just looking at it wrong.
The book works best in places where Gladwell establishes early on that there is something more at stake—a cure for leukemia, perhaps, or massive progress toward human equality. Not every chapter or section within the chapter is doing this though, which can leave the reader stranded in a sea of junior high basketball teams and Irish countryside. And, while the metaphor is never given up, it is occasionally administered with a lighter hand, which is to say that Gladwell lets the message sing by placing sections meant to parallel on another in close proximity and allowing the reader to do some of the work.
The anecdotes, while sweet and generally entertaining, seem to reach—Gladwell is perhaps aiming for the 275 page mark when it might better serve the text to be concise. Still, many of the stories are interesting and inspiring if you’ve ever attempted to overcome an obstacle, pursued something you thought out of reach, or considered using trickery to slay the giant.
Perhaps particularly interesting to Jason Hartman’s Young Wealth listeners is the chapter on Ivy League education. Gladwell argues that there is a downside to these prestigious academic institutions and that it is likely better to pursue the “big fish in a small pond” theory of academic acceptance. The idea is that one will be more likely to experience success if they’re allowed to prosper in an academic environment that contains students of varying intelligence levels and skill sets.
He illustrates his point with the tale of a woman who, used to being the best, receives a B grade in a science course and changes her course of study—a decision she seems to regret.
There’s also a chapter on desirable difficulties, a concept that we’re all able to identify with on some level. From dyslexia to poverty, Gladwell stresses that these are the obstacles that shape us and force us to develop other (perhaps better) skills to compensate for our difficulty. Again, he drives home the point that it may all just be a matter of perspective.
David and Goliath is an imperfect book with a fantastic message—use what you got.(http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrelbirkett/5787460049/)
The Young Wealth Team