Some Thoughts On Various Subjects From Malcolm Gladwell

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“Achievement is talent plus preparation”

Malcolm Gladwell

“To be someone’s best friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting.”

Malcolm Gladwell


Currently Reading: Being Mortal By Atul Gawande

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I started this book Saturday with apprehension because of the subject matter. As I have read approximately 25% of the book, I must say the author does a tremendous job in sizing up American medicine. On the back cover of the book, Malcolm Gladwell sums it up very well.

“American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande’s most powerful-and-moving book.”

Some really interesting paragraphs from the book, I wanted to share with our readers that I was unaware of:

From page 32:

“The idea that living things shut down instead of wearing down has received substantial support in recent years. Researchers working with the now famous worm C. elegans (twice in one decade, Nobel Prizes went to scientists doing work on the little nematode) were able, by altering a single gene, to produce worms that live more than twice as long and age more slowly. Scientists have since come up with single-gene alterations that increase the life spans of fruit, mice and yeast.”

From page 33 on inheritance:

“It turns out that inheritance has surprisingly little influence on longevity. James Vaupel, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Rostock, Germany, notes that only 3 percent of how long you’ll live, compared with the average, is explained by your parents’ longevity; by contrast, up to 90 percent of how tall you are is explained by your parents’ height. Even genetically identical twins vary widely in life span; the typical gap is more than fifteen years.”

That information was astounding to me!!!

From page 41:

“The job of any doctor, Bludau (the chief geriatrician at the Center for Older Adult Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA) later told me (Atul Gawande), is to support quality of life, by which he meant two things: as much freedom from the ravages of disease as possible and the retention of enough function for active engagement in the world. Most doctors treat disease and figure that the rest will take care of itself. And if it doesn’t—if a patient is becoming infirm and heading toward a nursing home—well, that isn’t really a medical problem, is it?”

And finally from page 44:

“Several years ago, researchers at the University of Minnesota identified 568 men and women over the age of seventy who were living independently but were at high risk of becoming disabled because of chronic health problems, recent illness, or cognitive changes. With their permission, the researchers randomly assigned half of them to see a team of geriatric nurses and doctors—a team dedicated to the art and science of managing old age. The others were asked to see their usual physician, who was notified of their high-risk status. Within eighteen months, 10 percent of the patients in both groups had died. But the patients who had seen a geriatrics team were a quarter less likely to become disabled and half as likely to develop depression. They were 40 percent less likely to require home health services.”

I urge each of our readers to rush out and purchase a copy of this since it affects each and every one of us in some way. Here is a video from the author about the book:


More Books That I Have Read In 2014

Back on March 28th, 2014 I did a post on book that I have read thus far. I have had a Malcolm Gladwell time since the end of March and I have read these books:

David And Goliath     Malcolm Gladwell

Emerson: The Mind On Fire     Robert D. Richardson

Blink     Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point     Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers     Malcolm Gladwell

And I am currently reading:

Capital In The Twenty First Century     Thomas Piketty

I must say that I enjoyed rereading Emerson: The Mind On Fire the most and the best in my opinion of Malcolm Gladwell’s books was Outliers. I am in the middle of Capital In The Twenty First Century and not being an economist or even an economics major, I find this to be a very stimulating book thus far and easy to digest. I have also read What The Dog Saw by Gladwell when it first came out and I would recommend it as the first book to read of Gladwell’s so you get a taste of the author.

I Am Having A Malcolm Gladwell Month

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In the last month, I have read The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I have not posted on these books because I have more questions to consider. As I came to the end of Outliers and Mr. Gladwell was discussing his mother on page 283-284 and his mother’s anger with racial prejudice because of their housing situation in London, this quote by his mother hit me like a ton of bricks;

“I complained to God in so many words: ‘Here I was, the wounded representative of the negro race in our struggle to be accounted free and equal with the dominating whites!’ And God was amused; my prayer did not ring true with Him. I would try again. And then God said, ‘Have you not done the same thing? Remember this one and that one, people whom you have slighted or avoided or treated less considerately than others because they were different superficially, and you were ashamed to be identified with them. Have you not been glad that you are not black? My anger and hate against the landlady melted. I was no better than she was, not worse for that matter…We were both guilty of the sin of self-regard, the pride and the exclusiveness by which we cut some people off from ourselves.”

This made me look at areas of my life where I have been judgmental and have put myself above others. Our lives are about relationships and how we handle them. What is your legacy going to be in this area?

Currently Analytically Rereading: The Tipping Point By Malcolm Gladwell

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There has been a tremendous amount of press about this book since it was published in 2000, but since I had recently read David And Goliath, I decided to continue to reread all his previous books.

I want to read this with the purpose of answering the questions that he poses as well as the ones that I would like considered.

As an example on page 24, I love these questions and as I read further I want to see if Mr. Gladwell really answers these or glosses over them. The questions are:

“Why is it that some ideas or behaviors or products start epidemics and others don’t?”

“And what can we do to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of our own?”

In chapter One, Mr. Gladwell discusses the Baltimore syphilis problem and what caused it to tip. What was very interesting to me were the three basic theories that caused this problem to occur and all of these theories were presented by experts in their field. All of these theories were not dramatic in the sense that it caused the syphilis problem to tip, but what was interesting to me, was what does this say in really identifying the problem. It seems to me that there could be an elephant in the room and it would not be identifed as the tipping point? Readers, am I thinking about this correctly?

Big Fish, Little Fish, Big Pond, Little Pond Part II

We continue with this conversation of Is it better to be a Big Fish in a Little Pond or a Little Fish in a Big Pond?

This is a quote from page 63 by Caroline Sacks from David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell:

“If I’d gone to the University of Maryland, I’d still be in science.”

My question is did Carloline Sacks really make the wrong decision by choosing Brown instead of the University of Maryland? Brown, of course, is one of the top colleges in the United States while Maryland is rated much lower.

According to Gladwell on page 71:

“But let’s think about Caroline’s decision in the same way the Impressionists thought about the Salon. What the Impressionists understood, in their endless debates at the Cafe Guerbois, was that the choice between the Salon and a solo show wasn’t a simple case of a best option and a second-best option. It was a choice between two very different options, each with its own strengths and drawbacks.”

Based on Caroline’s background, she may have found it very difficult to be a Little Fish in a Big Pond, considering she had always made straight A’s.

One of the other questions that I thought of was did Caroline think before she left Brown of any other options in science in which she may have pursued. Organic chemistry, if you ask anyone, is one of the most difficult courses in any college curriculum and that was, in my opinion, her stumbling block. Was this really a Little Fish in a Big Pond issue or was it something else?






Big Fish, Little Fish, Big Pond, Little Pond

I have been thinking about is it better to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond and I ran across in Chapter 3 of David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell a good starting point. He begins the chapter by discussing the Impressionists painters in France and the struggles they were up against in getting their paintings shown in the Salon. There were several painters in this group including: Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, and Camille Pissarro. I would say at this point in their careers that they were little fish in a big pond. They came to a crisis point. My question is:

Would you consider this group to be and to have a mastermind alliance? Exactly what is a mastermind alliance?

From Laws Of Success By Napoleon Hill:

From page 55 the definition of a mastermind alliance”

“A Master Mind may be created through the bringing together or blending, in a spirit of perfect harmony, of two or more minds. Out of this harmonious blending the chemistry of the mind creates a third mind which may be appropriated and used by one or all of the individual minds. This Master Mind will remain available as long as the friendly, harmonious alliance between the individual minds exists. It will disintegrate and all evidence of its former existence will disappear the moment the friendly alliance is broken.”

These men, in my opinion, had a mastermind alliance which allowed them to break away from the Salon model and strike out for themselves. I am sure there were other factors, but to me, that was the primary one.

I love this quote from Malcolm Gladwell from page 74 of David and Goliath:

“The lesson of the Impressionists is that 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 wold turns out not to be a disadvantage at all.”

Something to mull over. We will have more on this subject in upcoming posts as we discuss Caroline Sacks and her problems with which fish and which pond should she pursue.