Notes & Quotes: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

The following are my favorite quotes from Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  Numbered for convenience.
  1. World arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.
  2. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.
  3. "Some pretend to be rich, yet have nothing; others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth." Proverbs 13:7
  4. There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources -- and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.
  5. Underdog strategies are hard.
  6. "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations."
  7. Wealth contains the seeds of its own destruction.
  8. There are times and places where it is better to 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 world turns out not to be a disadvantage at all.
  9. Stouffer's point is that we form our impressions not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally -- by comparing ourselves to people "in the same boat as ourselves."
  10. In determining the likelihood of getting a science degree, is not just how smart you are.  It's how smart you feel relative to the other people in your classroom.
  11. The best students from mediocre schools were almost always a better bet than good students from the very best schools.
  12. Why on earth are people convinced that places at the top are so valuable that they are worth fighting over?
  13. "For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
  14. Kids with dyslexia are likely to end up in the juvenile system, because they act up.  It's because they can't figure things out.
  15. An extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic.  A recent study by Julie Logan at City University London puts the number somewhere around a third.
  16. The psychiatrist Felix Brown has found that prisoners are somewhere between two and three times more likely to have lost a parent in childhood than is the population as a whole.
  17. The right question is whether we as a society need people who have emerged from some kind of trauma -- and the answer is that we plainly do.
  18. We need to remember that our definition of what is right is, as often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside.
  19. Legitimacy is based on three things.  First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice -- that if they speak, they will be heard.  Second, the law has to be predictable.  There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.  And third, the authority has to be fair.  It can't treat one group differently from another.
  20. How you punish is as important as the act of punishing itself.
  21. The powerful have to worry about how others think of them -- that those who give orders are acutely vulnerable to the opinions of those whom they are ordering about.
  22. When the law is applied in the absence of legitimacy, it does not produce obedience.  It produces the opposite.  It leads to backlash.
  23. You and I are sensitive to increased punishment, because you and I are people with a stake in society.  But criminals aren't.
  24. Having a parent incarcerated increases a child's chances of juvenile delinquency between 300 and 400 percent; it increases the odds of a serious psychiatric disorder by 250 percent.
  25. Some religious movements have as their heroes great warriors or prophets.  The Mennonites have Dirk Willems, who was arrested for his religious beliefs in the sixteenth century and held in a prison tower.  With the aid of a rope made of knotted rags, he let himself down from the window and escaped across the castle's ice-covered moat.  A guard gave chase, Willems made it safely to the other side.  The guard did not, falling through the ice into the freezing water, and Willems stopped, went back, and pulled his pursuer to safety.  For his act of compassion, he was taken back to prison, tortured, and then burned slowly at the stake as he repeated, "Oh, my Lord, my God" seventy times over.
  26. The comes a point where the best-intentioned application of power and authority begins to backfire. 
  27. Book of Romans, chapter 13, verse 8: "Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbors has fulfilled the law."
  28. The powerful are not as powerful as they seem -- nor the weak as weak.
  29. The excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems, and force without legitimacy leads to defiance, not submission.
Which is your favorite quote?  Share it in the comments.  If you like the notes, consider picking up a copy for yourself.