- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 7 hours
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 1, 2013
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00EKQKMG2
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is broken down into three parts. The first part explores the concept of disadvantages that latter manifest themselves as hidden strengths. The author explores how a girls middle school basketball team was able to win the Little League basketball championship despite having a team of first time basketball players coached by an Indian immigrant who was unfamiliar with the game. There is also a fascinating part dedicated to showing how second rate scholars at first rate universities are at a disadvantage when compared to first rate scholars at second rate universities.
The second part focus more so on particular people and on their "desirable difficulties." You learn about a dyslexic who uses his disorder as a point of strength in his profession as a trial lawyer and of another who does the same in Hollywood. Gladwell then describes the life of Jay Freireich, a pioneer in the treatment of cancer and use of chemotherapy, as an example of someone who persisted through traumatic events in his childhood to accomplish something great in his life. The fundamental message being here that people who overcome these "desirable difficulties" develop inner strength that helps them to persist onward through the future challenges that life will throw there way.
The third part discusses the limits of power. It was my favorite. Gladwell discusses the limits of power that large institutions have on minority groups. You see through the eyes of characters from both sides of the spectrum. Those that are being oppressed by the higher power and those that are committing the act of oppression. Gladwell's narrative does a good job of clearly demonstrating that the reality that people experience in life cannot be changed by brute, domineering force. A better way would be to understand where this group is coming from and working within their framework of understanding to guide them into making the right decisions in life. A great example is made by the author through demonstrating the catastrophic mistake made by Leon Goure and ultimately Lyndon B Johnson in choosing to bomb Vietnam.
My main problem with the book is how Gladwell often times frames his stories in order to be consistent with his narrative. He does provide some disclaimer that a lot of the examples he used of people with "desirable difficulties" were people who were fortunate to overcome their unfortunate standing in life but I think he fails to resoundingly capture the fact that an overwhelming majority of people with disorders or traumatic events in their childhood are polarized by the experience and have difficulty recovering and leading what many of us would consider "normal" lives.
Another problem with this book is that Gladwell commits some blatant factual errors in telling him stories. For example, in one part he compared post-WWII Poland to modern day North Korea. As someone who was raised by two parents who grew up in this country and witnessed it first hand I can tell you that this far from the truth. My father, an Econ major, routinely argued with his Communist professors over the merits of Capitalism and guess what...he was not shipped to a labor camp and was actually allowed to graduate (although with probably weaker marks than if he had kept his mouth shut). Sure, the country was poor, oppressed by the Soviet ruling power, and offered its citizens little hope for the future, but by no means was it modern day North Korea. So when Gladwell discusses Ingvar Kamprad's radical value proposition by producing furniture in Poland it is more so akin to US conglomerates choosing to manufacture their sneakers in China in the 1980s. And if Gladwell made this sort of hyperbole when discussing this particular story, how am I supposed to buy into the things that he says on topics I am less knowledgeable about?
Overall, this is typical Gladwell. It is a fun book to read with some entertaining stories in it and one central idea that binds it all together, but revolutionary it is not.
Gladwell does a great job capturing plenty of true stories of people with disadvantages, or in disadvantageous situations. The first three chapters focus on redefining our situations, followed by the next three which are cause-and-effect relationships (how our disadvantages shape our lives for advantages), followed by more chapters of redefining disadvantages through questioning what real power looks like. Gladwell does a good job of interweaving these stories with data such as charts and graphs, as well as historical data to defend his main idea. Although Gladwell makes great points, you might find his story-telling to become redundant. You begin to understand where the stories are going and get used to Gladwell’s style early on in the reading. This is to be expected since Gladwell is a well-known journalist; for he collects his thoughts thoroughly and uses a set format to write his stories. Only once did I find myself questioning Gladwell’s sources, and that was on his information about Goliath’s health. He only quotes one source and uses that source heavily to prove the point that Goliath had an illness in his brain that made him big and made his movements slow. Other than that, I appreciated his use of sources.
Overall, this book is well worth reading as it can change your thinking for the better. Advantages have disadvantages, but disadvantages present the opportunity to discover new-found advantages. This is a positive message to put any underdog on top in all kinds of negative circumstances. Everyone faces giants in life. Like Goliath, those giants call us out to battle with them on their terms, but we don’t have to meet those giants on their terms. Normally when we do, we lose. Rather, we can find strengths in the greatest of weaknesses, and opportunities in all kinds of situations that turn disadvantages upside-down.
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