“Work hard, be independent, learn the meaning of money”

The next book I picked up for reading during the month of Dec was Malcom Gladwell’s “David & Goliath”. I have already read Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. People who are close to me know that I refer to Gladwell’s writing in relevant places.

B: “He [David’s king Saul] doesn’t appreciate that power can come in other forms as well — in breaking rules, in substituting speed and surprise for strength.”

B: “The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.”

B: “The eighteenth-century general Maurice de Sae famously said that the art of war was about legs, not arms, and Lawrence’s troops were all legs.”

B: The first chapter was titled Vivek Ranadive, an Indian origin from Mumbai. It was pleasantly surprising to read about an Indian in the book. The description that Gladwell gives of Ranadive’s younger life, “Ranadive camped outside the office of the governor of the Reserve Bank of India until he got his money [for going to the US]. Ranadive is slender and fine-boned, with a languorous walk and an air of imperturbability. But none of that should be mistaken for nonchalance.

B: “The whole Redwood City philosophy was based on willingness to try harder than anyone else.”

PK: This is such a strong statement, I wish all my students pick this one and implement it to the fullest possibility. This also connects to the “Brick Walls” concept by Randy Pausch.

B: “The story of Vivek Ranadive and the Redwood City girls’ basketball team suggests that what we think of as an advantage and as disadvantage is not always correct, that we mix the categories up.”

PK: After reading the book and reflecting on things, I believe this is somewhat true in my own decision making.

B: The concept of “diminishing marginal returns” was interesting in terms of parenting. “There is an important principle that guides our thinking about the relationship between parenting and money — and that principle is that more is not always better.”

B: This line in the book was so powerful, in terms of being a parent and denying something to the kids. “Yes, I can buy that for you, But I choose not to. It’s not consistent with our values”

B: Gladwell has applied the concept “inverted U curve” in interesting ways.

B: “We strive for the best and attach great importance to getting into the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider — as the Impressionists did — whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest. there are many examples of this, but few more telling than the way we think about where to attend university.”

B: “She was a Little Fish in one of the deepest and most competitive ponds in the country [Brown University] — as the experience of comparing herself to all the other brilliant fish shattered her confidence. It made her feel stupid, even though she isn’t stupid at all.”

B: “Our sense of how deprived we are is relative” “If you are depressed in a place where most people are pretty unhappy, you compare yourself to those around you and you don’t feel all that bad. But can you imagine how difficult it must be to be depressed in a country where everyone else has a big smile on their face?”

PK: Such a profound thought!

B: Gladwell also says that most number of suicides happen in “happy” countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Canada, compared to “not very happy” countries like Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

B: “What matters, 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.”

PK: Gladwell takes this situation of UG degree in the US, is this true for Ph.D. in India?

B: He cites research work done to show “That the best students from mediocre schools were almost always a better bet than good students from the very best schools”

PK: I can see many people having trouble with this statement.

B: This was this high part of reading the book, the authors says “It’s called the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT).” I used the same concept in one of the papers that I wrote in 2007, “Getting Users to Pay Attention to Anti-Phishing Education: Evaluation of Retention and Transfer“. Thanks to Sharique Hassan, now a faculty at Stanford and then a Ph.D. student at CMU. I was reminded of the conversations that I had with Sharique on CRT and how to apply it to the Phishing study that I was doing.

B: “Five Factor Model: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness”

B: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt to the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Thanks to Prof. Narendra Ahuja who first mentioned this to me in the past.

B: “A near miss [you are few mts away from where an earthquake occurs] leaves you traumatized. A remote miss [you are slightly far of] makes you think you are invincible”

B: “Twelve of the first forty-four U.S. presidents — beginning with George Washington and going all the way to Barack Obama — lost their fathers while they were young.”

B: “Gifted children and child prodigies seem most likely to emerge in highly supportive family conditions. In contrast, geniuses have a perverse tendency of growing up in more adverse conditions.”

B: “We are all of us not merely liable to fear, we are also prone to be afraid of being afraid, and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration.”

B: Chapter Six was one of my best chapters of the book. It clearly shows that how a small event [in this case the dog jumping on a kid, see the picture below] could change the game.

B: “King [Martin Luther] was a moral absolutist who did not stray from his principles even when under attack.”

B: “influencing popular behavior requires neither sympathy, nor mysticism,”

B: “Loving, forgiving and doing good to our adversaries is our duty” he [Trocme] said. “Yet we must do this withtout giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of Gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate.”

Words / concepts I learned from this book:
– acromegaly: abnormal growth of the hands, feet, and face, caused by overproduction of growth hormone by the pituitary gland.
– ichthyologist: the branch of zoology that deals with fishes.
– abattoir: a slaughterhouse
– “capitalization learning”, “compensation learning”, “principle of legitimacy”

Blog of the other two books that I read during Dec 2014: “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” & “The Art of The Start”.

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Professor @ IIIT Hyderabad http://precog.iiit.ac.in