Book notes: David and Goliath

My notes from re-read of David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

— If you’re an outsider, you don’t care what established people in the industry think.  You just do what works.

— “Any fool can spend money.”

— When you’re the underdog, know what your strengths are (or could be) and leverage them.  Change the game from one of skill to one of effort.

— Relative deprivation: natural response is to compare yourself to your peers immediately around you when in fact this can discourage you if you’re surrounded by elite people in your field of interest, resulting in you abandoning your talent and/or passion because your performance is average or below when compared to that small sample.  Create an environment where you can be a Big Fish in a Little Pond that will nurture your enthusiasm for your work.  Own note: only exception I see is if you know you’re such a competitor that you do better when surrounded by people better than you.  I imagine this is rare though.

— Make learning disfluent.  If you make a task a little bit harder or more uncomfortable than normal, your retainment of the material and ultimate performance tends to be greater.  This aligns with the research on Deliberate Practice by Anders Ericsson at Florida State.

— Practice as if there’s no other option.  Your focus is heightened when your method of learning is the only one available to you.  May be tough to simulate, but is evident in examples like the dyslexic man who becomes an excellent listener because it’s the only way for him to learn, and this ends up becoming a competitive advantage in his field.

— Be unreasonable to the world (could also call this disagreeable).  Also conscientiousness (orderly/industrious) and open/curious were other traits often found in innovators and entrepreneurs.  Up to 25% of successful entrepreneurs/innovators in studies reported having a learning disability.  The 3 traits cited above were essential in order for them to overcome this and succeed.

— Be comfortable with failure.  Those who had a desirable difficulty growing up have a very developed sense of failure that makes them more apt to take risks than their regular peers.

— Affective forecasting: how we think we’ll feel if a certain event occurs in the future…We are terrible at this.  Own note: probably pays to think inversely on this.  When you’re really fearful of a given outcome, internalize the notion that such fear is likely misplaced, and conversely, when you think an outcome is unlikely to affect you materially, pay that situation more respect for how you may feel emotionally than you’re currently giving it.

— Break the frame of the known world (take chances others won’t)…similar to “Be unreasonable to the world” above

— Remember the unexpected freedom of “nothing to lose”…Own note: catch is you actually have to have nothing to lose to truly embody this

Own note: Precariousness of Project C in Birmingham during Civil Rights Movement.  Amazing to think how close the biggest breakthrough for Dr. King and his staff nearly backfired.  Not sure what to make of this, except to pay further respect to how many outcomes look like toss-ups in retrospect.  And yet, are there factors we’re not considering in what turns these “toss-ups” in certain teams/people’s favor most of the time?  As simple as who is most prepared so at the most important inflection point, one side can keep their wits about them better and perform closer to how they normally do than their opposition?

— The strong don’t see nuance or differentiate when looking at the weak.  They generalize and stereotype.  The weak have no choice but to recognize the nuance in every situation.

— Tricksters are not created by nature, but by necessity.  It’s the byproduct of playing a game that isn’t fair because the rules are stacked against you

— Revolutions are started by the stupidity of those in charge (and not the insurgents) because they don’t think that what the weak thinks of them matters

— Example: if a teacher does not do their job properly, that’s when the child becomes disobedient.  The focus of the teacher should be “How do I make this interesting to them?”

— How authority figure behaves matters first

— Principle of legitimacy: 3 factors – 1) Those expected to obey the authority must believe they have a voice that will be heard by the authority.  2) The rules must be predictable from one day to the next.  3) The rules must be fair…Own note: seems like Givers (Adam Grant’s term) would be great in this role

— When in a position of power, you must worry about what the others think of you, because that’s where you’re vulnerable…Own note: goes back to looking for the nuance in those following your lead.  It’s the little things that count for having such perception.

— Inverted U-Curve: more resources are not always better

— Don’t assume individuals or the group is going to behave rationally (basically, there’s a lot of risk to assuming you understand too much about the other side’s reasoning for a potential/given action)

— People don’t think far ahead when making decisions (e.g., a criminal isn’t thinking about the sentence for convicted burglary being 4 years vs 9 years when he’s actually deciding to make the boost)…Own note: doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stretch your horizon when making certain decisions, but likely best not to give others that benefit of the doubt when trying to put yourself in their shoes

— A person’s criminal history declines significantly once they get past their mid-20s

— Forgiveness is the best antidote to prevent oneself from going too far down the inverted-U curve for retribution

— when doing what you think is right/just, one must act without fear…and also without pride or hate.

— when doing what is right/just, what choice/decision is there to really consider?

— there are limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish