Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell was in Oregon this week, talking about his new book David And Goliath. He sat down with Think Out Loud host David Miller to discuss a wide range of topics, from education to criminal sentencing to basketball strategy. Gladwell has made a career out of debunking commonly held assumptions on a wide range of phenomena, exposing the logical flaws that lead us to what he says is a misunderstanding of where the real heart of an issue truly lies. His earlier works The Tipping Point and Blink were international bestsellers. Gladwell has become a formidable voice in modern cultural discourse, though he is not without his fair share of critics.
In the book, Gladwell describes David as audacious and courageous but also as a rule breaker and someone who takes advantage of Goliath’s poor eyesight. So Miller asked Gladwell whether he actually liked David.
“What I love about him, and the piece I come back to again and again in the book, is his refusal to be passive in the face of his disadvantage. That is to say, rather than simply roll over and say ‘I’m probably going to lose, I’m probably going to sacrifice myself’ and be all glum about the fact that he’s up against this man that’s twice his size and armed to the teeth, he uses his disadvantage as an impetus to search for a new strategy. And that piece of it, I love. And that idea that when you absolutely have nothing to lose you actually become a very, very dangerous opponent.”
Gladwell also talked about his recent New Yorker feature that takes umbrage with the notion that the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports constitutes an unfair advantage:
“I share everyone’s attachment to this romantic view of sports; however, I am distressed at how lame the arguments we use against performance enhancing drugs really are. They’re not very good arguments. I’m stuck on this question of, for example, how did we come to this position where we’re frowning on drugs that allow people to work harder? I never thought in a million years that I would be in a position where I would be disparaging someone for wanting to work harder. My whole life has been organized around the praise of hard work! So, Lance [Armstrong] wanted to work harder than everyone else, and did work harder than everyone else in the cycling world, and yet here I am — here we all are — in a position of denouncing him. That just seems, to me, weird.”
To hear the full conversation with Malcolm Gladwell, click on the audio link at the top of this article.