David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell (Book Summary)

Legends of heroes are even more amazing than the more difficult trials fall on their lot.

The biblical story of the duel between David and Goliath is just one of many legends built on this model.

The author of the book, the famous American journalist Malcolm Gladwell, sets out this plot in a completely different way.

He presents his own interpretation of the biblical episode, the meaning of which, in his opinion, is that the qualities perceived by all as strength turn out to be a weakness, and vice versa.

Gladwell tells stories about people who have found the courage to overcome childhood psychological injuries, illnesses, injuries, or rebuffed entire armies of enemies.

Gladwell does not say anything fundamentally new; he does not offer ready-made recipes in the spirit of a mentor psychologist.

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“advantages of Disadvantages and Disadvantages of Advantages”

In our daily lives, we endlessly face a variety of difficulties and problems that sometimes seem insurmountable to us.

Like David, who entered into a duel with the giant Goliath, we constantly confront diseases, failures, oppression …

If you think about it, two important conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, this struggle allows us to discover and develop many good features in ourselves. Secondly, it turns out that the might of the formidable, it would seem, giants often turns into a weakness.

Realizing that we lack brute force, we become resourceful, just like the Israeli shepherd David in combat with Goliath, the most formidable warrior of the Philistines. Coming into an unequal battle with the mighty giant, David refused heavy armor and took with him only a staff, a sling and a few stones from the stream. The outcome of the match is known:

“In Saul’s view, strength equaled physical strength. It didn’t occur to him that power could manifest itself in other forms: violation of the rules of the game, speed, surprise. Such a mistake is not unique to Saul. ”

The moral of this biblical story is not that the weak can, contrary to all expectations, defeat the strong. Such an interpretation would be erroneous.

Slingers played an important role in the armies of antiquity – they represented a considerable danger for heavy infantry, suitable only for hand-to-hand combat. It was immediately clear to the soldiers who watched the duel that the dexterous slinger would defeat the clumsy strongman.

For some reason, at first, only King Saul did not believe in David. In the same way, like King Saul, we often lose sight of the fact that the lack of physical strength can be compensated for by the speed and suddenness of the attack. Like him, we misjudge the Goliath that has arisen before us: instead of discerning the lack of his slowness, we retreat in fear of his power. That’s why it turns out

 Winnings of the Weak Are Not Uncommon

Of all the wars that large states have ever waged with much smaller ones, almost a third have won small ones.

And if we take into account also those cases when the weak refused to fight according to the rules of the strong, using the tactics of guerrilla warfare (for example, Lawrence of Arabia, who participated in the Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire), then the victories of the weak will amount to two-thirds.

“In our minds … a very narrow and rigid definition of advantage has taken hold. We consider useful things that are not, and call useless those that can bring many benefits. ”

Victories of supposedly weak over allegedly strong are not uncommon in sports. A basketball team, which is not at all strong in attack, is quite capable of defeating the most experienced opponent if he consistently focuses on defense tactics, or “pressure”, when the ball is constantly intercepted by the attacking player.

True, such a victory, as a rule, comes at the cost of tremendous effort. Knowing this, those who are pre-configured to fail are afraid to resort to unusual, risky tactics.

Those who find themselves in a hopeless situation are prone to “impudent” actions, while most people keep them from their status and reputation; few are willing to put their good name at stake.

Does Money Interfere With Parenting?

Obviously, you can always find some turning point, behind which the advantage turns into a disadvantage.

This is easily shown by the example of the educational process. Parents of all countries of the world prefer their children to study in small, but not in large groups – there is an opinion that this is better for learning.

Local authorities are obediently responding to these wishes, attracting more and more teachers and crushing large classes.

“An underestimated adversary like David usually wins the battle. But in most cases, underestimated upstarts do not fight like David. ”

However, the vast majority of scientific studies indicate that the small number of students in themselves does not lead to any positive results.

To create optimal conditions, classes should be neither too large nor too small. In small groups, bullying, prone to domination, it is easier to subjugate the whole team than in large ones.

And for more timid children in such a situation, it is difficult to maintain harmonious relationships with peers, it is more difficult to find friends with similar needs and interests, and they become self-contained. In a small classroom, in addition, there is no room “for a variety of thoughts and impressions, without which a full-fledged personality development is impossible”.

Many teachers, unfortunately, do not understand that with ten students it is necessary to work with completely different methods than with thirty.

“The position of an outsider can change a person, although we do not always appreciate the changes that take place: it opens doors, creates opportunities, enlightens, educates, makes possible what seemed unimaginable.”

Parenting in a rich family can negatively affect a person’s fate, and a difficult childhood among poor immigrants – on the contrary, is positive.

It’s all about motivation: the desire to break out of need and poverty is a powerful incentive that promotes the education of a strong personality. And if a child grows up in an atmosphere of prosperity and luxury, then he loses this incentive – he already has everything!

The turning point, after which large earnings begin to significantly complicate the tasks of parents, in the United States can be considered an annual family income of 75 thousand dollars.

Better to Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond

When you make some crucial choice – for example, choosing a university for your son or daughter – then, as a rule, there is an option that everyone considers the best.

However, what is optimal from the point of view of the majority is far from necessarily suitable for your children. It is important to understand what is best for you – to become one of the many small fish swarming in a large pond, or to find for yourself a small pond in which you will be a large fish.

It was precisely in the 1870s that the impressionist painters faced this dilemma. At that time, the painting could only be sold if it was exhibited at the annual exhibition in the famous Paris Salon.

The criteria for selecting paintings for this exhibition were emphasized conservative, so innovative artists invariably failed. Success came to the Impressionists only

“It is not easier for a teacher to cope with a small class than with a large one. In one case, the problem is the number of potential interactions that need to be regulated. In another case, this is the intensity of such interactions. ”

We do not compare ourselves with the entire population of the planet, but only with people from our midst.

If people in our environment are more capable or happier, then we begin to feel like losers or victims. That is why in the most prosperous countries the highest percentage of suicides and students of prestigious universities more often drop out. In elite educational institutions, only real talents feel comfortable, while the rest have low self-esteem.

Therefore, benefits programs that facilitate entry to the best universities for representatives of various minorities can be a double-edged sword: believing that we provide these people with benefits, we actually reduce their chances of academic success and prestigious career. “Little Pond” provides the necessary degree of freedom;

Turn Your Limits Into Benefits

Paradoxical as it may seem, the more difficult it is to parse a font in an academic test for analytical skills, the better students cope with it on average. This is explained by the fact that when we have to make efforts when reading questions, we think more intensely about the answers. Difficulties and obstacles are sometimes very useful.

“Wealth carries the seed of self-destruction.”

Another illustrative example: on the one hand, many people with dyslexia are imprisoned, but on the other hand, amazingly many dyslexics can be found among successful entrepreneurs. This is, for example, British billionaire Richard Branson or Cisco CEO John Chambers. Unable to read quickly, dyslexics improve the ability to listen carefully.

They simply have to develop skills in themselves that would help compensate for their lack. Thanks to this, they get an important advantage: they have a feature that distinguishes all innovators – rejection of conformism, a willingness to go their own way, sometimes contrary to the opinion of a conservative majority.

What Kills Some Makes Others Stronger

If a person is faced with terrible trials, he does not have to react to them in any one specific way.

This fact is often not taken into account. Before World War II, the British government believed that if the Germans began to bomb London, the population of the city would be plunged into a panic.

However, in reality, it turned out differently: the Londoners showed courage and restraint. Those who survived the night raids felt even better than before – they were encouraged that the enemy bombs did not harm them. But there were not so many wounded and morally depressed as to change the general mood of the townspeople.

“People with power or power are not as powerful as they seem, and the weak are not so weak.”

The severe trauma suffered in childhood can give rise to two opposite behavioral patterns. Criminals and politicians have one common feature: both of them, for the most part, lost one of their parents in childhood.

An American doctor, a specialist in the field of leukemia, Jay Freiray had the courage to test controversial, but ultimately successful treatment methods for sick children, because his own difficult childhood taught him to maintain a presence of mind and not pay attention to the opinions of others.

He withstood the pressure because he had to experience the worst. Society needs people who have overcome mental trauma.

Victory by Provocation

For a long time, the struggle for the civil rights of blacks in the southern states of the United States seemed a hopeless affair – the racist sentiments of the majority left them no chance of success.

In the 1960s, the situation changed: Martin Luther King and his colleague Wyatt Walker were able to play on the fact that the blacks of the American South have shaped the worldview of the oppressed people for centuries.

Therefore, such methods of struggle as breaking the laws, deliberately misinterpreting the decrees of the authorities, cheating, and fraud (often in the spirit of famous fairy-tale characters, Brother Rabbit, for example) seemed quite justified and “legitimate”.

“The idea of desirable difficulties is that not all difficulties are inherently negative.”

Activists strongly baffled police – Walker called to the police station, and change the voice and accent, informed about the alleged impending protest march in the city of “niggers.”

The strategy of civil rights activists was to provoke police officers with false messages about appearances until they reveal their true identity.

This happened in Birmingham (Alabama): having fallen for a trick, the local sheriff did not stop even before letting the dogs down at the schoolchildren participating in the protest and sending them to prison.

Activists got their way: a photograph of a police shepherd attacking a black teenager was published on the front pages of all leading American newspapers.

Thanksgiving Turkey Instead of Handcuffs

Without the rule of law, even the powerful becomes powerless.

In the 1960s, when a civil war broke out in Northern Ireland, the British military showed excessive rigidity and committed a number of abuses. As a result, local Catholics began to perceive them as representatives of the Protestant enemies, with whom there can be no compromise. So an attempt to resolve the conflict led to its sharp aggravation.

“In some cases, we are all dependent on people hardened by everyday experience.”

With brute force, it is difficult to pacify not only the rebellious people but also the social lower classes. In Brownsville, one of New York’s most criminogenic areas, the police tried new tactics.

Police bought turkeys for Thanksgiving for poor families, took teenagers to doctors, looked for summer work for them, and arranged basketball games with them. As a result, the number of robberies and detentions in Brownsville has decreased markedly.

Punishment May Be Too Harsh

In 1992, a tragedy occurred in the California city of Fresno: two criminals attacked the eighteen-year-old Kimber Reynolds and, grabbing her bag from her, shot him.

Both robbers were drug addicts and had several convictions; one of them was just released on parole. This egregious case entailed toughening legislation.

Thanks to the active work of the girl’s father, Mike Renolds, the so-called three crimes law was passed in California: for the second serious crime, the convict receives a sentence twice that prescribed by law, and for the third offense – whatever it is – a life sentence is automatically assigned.

As a result, the number of prisoners doubled, and the number of murders and robberies decreased by approximately 40%.

“Do you understand now what the catastrophic mistake made by the Germans is? They bombed London, confident that physical and mental injuries caused by the bombing would deprive the British of their courage. But the bombing led to the opposite result. ”

In 2012, the law was significantly relaxed at the insistence of the state public.

The fact that in some cases the theft of pizza was punished as severely as murder, people perceived as a misunderstanding. In addition, tough measures did not always give a positive result; if they served as a deterrent, then only to some extent.

If criminals, for example, are drug addicts, then they do not think about the correlation of the benefits and risks of the planned offenses.

They don’t care what punishment awaits them. In addition, we must not forget how the “excess of law and order” affects family members of prisoners, especially children.

If parents are imprisoned, children very often also become criminals. When parents are imprisoned, it “increases the likelihood of child crime by 300-400%,

“Inverted U-shaped curves consist of three parts, and each of them obeys its own laws. The left part, where additional efforts or benefits improve life. A flat middle where extra effort doesn’t bring any special changes. And the right part, where additional efforts or benefits worsen the situation. “

What conclusion can be drawn?

Punishments cannot be tightened endlessly: according to the pattern, which is illustrated by the “inverted U-shaped curve”, in the end, there comes a moment from which the negative consequences of draconian laws increasingly prevail over the positive ones.

This is the same logic that applies in the case of the number of school classes, which can only be reduced to a certain limit, after which learning becomes ineffective.

“A strategy that yields positive results at first, after a certain point, stops working.”


  • The duel between David and Goliath is still misinterpreted – it’s hard for us to realize that the strengths of the strong are often disadvantages.
  • The “outsider” was actually not a clever young man, David, but the hulking giant Goliath.
  • And a small country has a chance to defeat a powerful adversary if it starts to fight it according to its own rules.
  • Extra effort or excess resources is not always good. There is a point after which they begin to act to the detriment.
  • A large number of teachers to reduce the size of classes, or rich parents do not mean a better education or a bright future for children.
  • A person with average abilities is better to be a “big fish” in a “small pond”: this way he will get more opportunities for self-realization.
  • People who have found the strength to overcome serious limitations – for example, dyslexia – often achieve tremendous success.
  • If the tests have not broken a person, then he is tempered and made stronger. Society needs such people.
  • Authorities must respect legitimacy and listen to the opinions of others – otherwise, they provoke disobedience.
  • Tighter penalties far from always lead to a decrease in crime.

Why You Should Read “David and Goliath”

  • To rethink your weakness points.
  • To turn a weakness into a strength.
  • To be able to compete with “big guys”

Quick intro and benefits from the book


Why You Should Read David And Goliath?

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david and goliath 3D Book Cover

David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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David And Goliath Summary + Key Ideas

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Recommended Reading

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