In Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Gladwell describes how some dyslexics develop strategies that enable them to cope with and overcome their disability. For instance they may develop greater interpersonal communication skills so that they can rely on other people for information that is written down – people who have access to the secrets of the written word. As a result of honing these skills in their youth they may grow up to be successful businessmen and politicians due to their ability to surround themselves with useful people.
Gladwell makes this observation of human behaviour in the face of disadvantage sound like a revelation that he has uncovered, while in reality it is probably no more than a reframing of the age-old idea that people who are blind develop a better sense of hearing.
Part of Gladwell’s talent is to make mundane observations seem profound.
One of his other talents is to wrap his insights up in a way that turns his books into a top end version of self help or self improvement manuals – manuals that are appealing to the type of person who would rarely wish to be seen reading a book from that genre (i.e. people who don’t think that they need them).
Here’s an observation of people triumphing over adversity that would fit well into Gladwell’s book.
Ugly people make better comedians than good looking people.
This may be true – or it may not be. However the general consensus is that there’s something in it.
The theory is that ugly people have to find a strategy for attracting and impressing other people that doesn’t rely on their looks. Good looking people don’t have to try, they simply attract people by standing there. As a result, ugly people become great comedians while good looking people become non-entities. Who’d want to be a good looking non-entity?