Why start the year with Malcolm Gladwell’s books?

Five of Malcolm Gladwell’s seven titles. PHOTO/JP.
Five of Malcolm Gladwell’s seven titles. PHOTO/JP.

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, putative public speaker and best-selling author. His books include: The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), What the Dog Saw (2009), David and Goliath (2013), Talking to Strangers (2019) and The Bomber Mafia (2021). 

In 2022, I read OutliersThe Tipping Point, and David and Goliath, and possibly, I will devour and savor the remaining titles in 2023. 

Anyway, while the year is still young and virgin, permit me to share a few insights from those books worth reading. 

Outliers is a story of success, a function of persistence and doggedness.

 Then comes the aphorism, no one rises before dawn, three hundred and sixty days a year, and fails to make his family rich. 

This implies that people access success through hard work, proper planning, self-reliance, or cooperation with a small group.

Canada is the most hockey-crazed country. Coaches start selecting players at the age of 9 or 10. They go through tough training to entice success. 

The idea that excellence in any sphere requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces for the umpteenth time in studies of expertise. 

Careful researchers settled on what they believe is the magical number for any marvelous mastery, 10,000 hours. 

In order to rise to stardom, the 10,000-Hour Rule comes in handy. 

In this regard, hockey players who rise to the acme of their game flex their muscles through persistent preparation and practice. 

They also have a big head start: an opportunity that comes through sheer luck and work. 

The opportunity that follows those who already have is what the sociologist Robert Merton famously christened as the ‘Matthew Effect’ after Matthew 25:29: “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (NIV) 

In The Tipping Point, Gladwell talks of how small things can make a big difference, lending credence to the wise words of Mother Mary Teresa of Calcutta, who once averred, “You do not have to do great things, but just do small things in a great way.” 

He talks about the Stickiness Factor, the Power of Context and the Law of Few, which are quite applicable in many spheres of life. 

The Stickiness Factor means that a message makes an impact and sticks in memories. 

The Power of Context postulates that human beings are quite sensitive to their environment. 

The Law of Few posits that we are friends with the people whom we do the same things with as much as we are with the people we resemble. 

We do not seek out our friends. Instead, we associate with people who occupy the same small, physical spaces that we do. 

Consequently, there are three categories of people: connectors, mavens and salespersons. 

Connectors know plenty of people. They have a foot in so many different worlds, and so they bring people together. 

They are people who we can reach because they occupy many different worlds, sub-cultures and niches. 

Their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality: some beautiful blend of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability and energy. 

Mavens are people with plenty of information on products, prices, or places. Mavens are data banks that provide the message.

They are important people in an economy because the marketplace depends on information; people with plenty of information are important. 

Salesmen wield persuasion skills when we are unconvinced of what we hear. They are critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics. 

Finally, David and Goliath is an allusion to the Biblical story. 

It is a tale of underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants. 

The book steers clear on what happens when ordinary people confront ‘giants’ — powerful opponents of all kinds — armies and mighty warriors, and so on. 

These are tales of different people — famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant — who have faced outsize challenges and been forced to wonder, “Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Should I persevere or give up? Should I strike back or forgive?”

The most important concept therein is the Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect. 

Contextually, it posits that the more elite an educational institution is, the worse students feel about their own academic abilities. 

Sometimes, it happens that students who emerge at the top of their class in a small school can really fall at the bottom in a great school.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: BOOK REVIEW: Replenishing the Earth 

Most parents and students make their school choices for the wrong reasons. They think that going to an academically selective school is the be-all and end-all. It is not true, for this causes some welter.

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Mr. Ochieng' is an editor, orator and author. His contact: vochieng.90@gmail.com


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