David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Big Fish, Small Fish

  • This chapter starts with the story of the group of French painters who founded the school of impressionism. Their work was so different, it was seldom accepted at the Salon, which was a large, selective organization of the day. Rather than be small fish in the big pond of the Salon, they started their own school, which was successful. Gladwell goes on to cite data that the top students at nonelite schools outperform average students at elite schools. The statistics on science grads and dropouts is convincing. The problem is due to the fact that people generally compare themselves to those who are in the same boat. The lesson for students is: go to a school where you are going to be closer to the top of the heap. The lesson for employers is: you are better off hiring the top grads from less prestigious schools.

The Advantage of Having Dyslexia

  • Dyslexics have a very difficult time reading as they have fewer neurons in the region of the brain devoted to reading. By the time they are diagnosed at age eight or nine, they have already struggled for three years. They are much more likely to be depressed and have discipline problems. Conventional wisdom holds that this type of disadvantage ultimately will leave you worse off, which is true for many dyslexics. For some, however, it turns out to be a desirable difficulty.
  • An extraordinary number of highly successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic, so it seems they succeeded because of their disorder. Since reading is so difficult, they compensate and develop skills that otherwise may have lane dormant. They often become better listeners and develop better memories. With more information in long-term memory, they can be better at critical thinking and problem-solving. Rather than adapt to the world, they try to adapt the world to themselves. This results in more innovation. They are much better at dealing with failure since they have had so much experience. This is also a prerequisite for innovation.
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