BOOK REVIEW : DAVID & GOLIATH by Malcolm Gladwell

Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate; it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.

Power can come in other forms – in breaking rules, in substituting speed and surprise for strength. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.



  • There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resource – and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.
  • The difference is the willingness to try harder than anyone else.


His father started out by earning money for a living. He’s trying to teach his children how to be more frugal and to be more grateful and how to earn the money that you spend. But as a parent, he wants the best for his children and for them not to experience what he experienced. But where do you draw the line? It’s hard to teach your children how to earn their own money if you have the financial capacity already.(He who doesn’t have it, does it and he who has it, misuses it.)

  • ‘Any fool can spend money. But to earn it and save it and defer gratification – then you learn to value it differently.
  • Scarcity was a great motivator.
  • What is possible isn’t always right.
  • It is good to be bigger and stronger than your opponent. It is not so good to be so big and strong that you are sitting duck for a rock fired.


‘If I’d gone to the University of Maryland, I’d still be in science’. Did you know that there is a higher percentage rate of people succeeding in life who came from little ponds? People from the highest institutions tend to think lowly of themselves compared to other people when you have the big pond as an environment.

  • Did they want to be a little fish in a big pond of a Big Fish in a little pond?
  • There is a point at which money and resources stop making our lives better and start making them worse.
  • We strive for the best and attached great importance to getting into the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest.
  • The challenge was to advance without worrying about opinion.
  • There are times and places where it is better to be a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a big pond, where the apparent disadvantage of being an outsider in a marginal world turns out not to be a disadvantage at all.
  • How you feel about your abilities – your academic self-concept – in the context of your classroom shapes your willingness to tackle challenges and finish difficult tasks. It’s a crucial element in your motivation and confidence.
  • Sometimes, it’s not just how smart you are. It’s how smart you feel relative to the other people in the room.
  • We take it for granted that the big pond expands opportunities, just as we take it for granted that a smaller class is always a better class. We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is – and the definition isn’t right. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage. It’s the little pond that maximizes your chances to do whatever you want.


2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 ‘I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’


Dyslexia: There’s a possibility that they succeeded, in part, because of their disorder – that they learned something I their struggle that proved to be an enormous advantage.

  • Capitalization Learning is we get good at something by building on the strengths that we are naturally given. But desirable difficulties have the opposite logic. They excel by making their lives harder, by forcing them to compensate for something that had been taken away from them.
  • It requires that you overcome your insecurity and humiliation.
  • What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.


When a bomb falls, it divides the population into three groups: the dead, the near misses and the remote misses. When you are the remote miss, there’s a feeling of excitement with a flavour of invulnerability. A near miss leaves you traumatized while a remote miss makes you think you are invincible.

  • We are prone to be afraid of being afraid and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration. The contrast between the previous apprehension and the present relief and feeling of security promotes self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.
  • The idea of desirable difficulty suggest that not all difficulties are negative.
  • Traumatic experiences can have two completely different effects on people: the same event can be profoundly damaging to one group while leaving another better off.
  • In certain circumstances, a virtue can be made of necessity.
  • Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.
  • It is possible to emerge from even the darkest hell healed and restored.


De Rabbit is de slickest o’ all de animals de lawd ever made. Martin Luther King’s war from equality among the people of color.

  • The figure of the trickster hero appears in the form of a seemingly innocuous animal that triumphs over others much larger than himself through cunning and guile.
  • The weak could compete in even the most lopsided of contests if they were willing to use their wits.
  • Dyslexics compensate for their disability by developing other skills that at times can rove highly advantageous.
  • There is an unexpected freedom that comes from having nothing to lose.
  • Our definition of what right is, as often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside.
  • You got to use what you got.


  • The Principle of Legitimacy is based on three things. First, people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same rules as the rules today. Third, authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.


We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to.

A daughter was killed in a robbery in front of a restaurant. The dad reacted by imposing Three Strikes law when it comes to crime and imprisonment.

  • All we’re looking for are results and the results are my greatest reward.
  • The logic of the inverted U curve is that the same strategies that work really well at first stop working past a certain point.
  • If you lock up too many people for too long, the collateral damage outweighs the benefit.
  • There comes a point where the best intentioned application of power and authority begins to backfire.


  • The excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems, and force without legitimacy leads to defiance, not submission.


To finally summarize this book:

If you take away the gift of reading, you create the gift of listening. If you bomb a city, you leave behind death and destruction. But you create a community of remote misses. If you take away a mother or a father you cause suffering and despair. But one time in ten, out of that despair rises and indomitable force. You see the giant and the shepherd in the valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with a sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.

 What I love about this book is that it made me question what I already thought I knew, especially the bombing philosopy and the inverted u curve. Read it too, you’ll love it!

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