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Weekend: David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell

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was about David and Goliath. Yes , I might get a little biblical here. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s books “The Tipping Point” and “Blink,” but hadn’t heard about his newest read, “David and Goliath” until my dad visited a couple of weeks ago. “It talks about weaknesses and how it can lead to strengths,” is how he described it. Sounded interesting to me, so I bought the book.

In it, Gladwell describes David Boies, a high-powered lawyer whose clients include the U.S. government, Al Gore, and IBM, as someone who seems like a Goliath, but is actually a David – he grew up modestly and overcame many obstacles to get where he is now. Today’s David, not the one from ages ago, is dyslexic, and because of his “ailment,” relied on visual and memory skills to get him through Yale Law School. It’s what Gladwell calls “the theory of desirable difficulty” – that weaknesses lead to strengths.

Gladwell had me thinking about my own life – which one of my weaknesses has lead to triumph? Confession: unless I really know and am comfortable around you, I’m not very articulate. I can express my thoughts clearly through the written word, but when it comes to speaking them, I suck. My thoughts come out intermittently and I’m not smooth and suave. Again, this is only if I don’t know you very well, I loosen up after time. I’ve always had this problem though. The times in my life when I saw a psychologists, I wrote down what I was thinking prior to a session. Even at work, I’d rather touch base with my manager in an email than a sit-down, face-to-face meeting. Because of my “weakness,” I started this blog to communicate my thoughts on sewing, patternmaking, and fashion and my writing skills continue to grow. So, is my social awkwardness a strength or a weakness?

Looking at my sewing life, Gladwell again had me thinking. Even though I have a delicate hand, I’m not very good at working with silky fabrics. This might be too philosophical, but I like having control and structure in my life, and this is something I don’t feel like I have when working with the buttery, liquid, and mellifluous fabrics. I’m in love with my most recent dress, but it gave me a major headache during construction. Rather than be damned because of my personality trait, I’ve steered clear of these types of fabrics (for the most part) and have chosen ones with some kind of rigidity – cottons, wools, twills, etc.

So, let me ask you, what are your “weaknesses” and are they really that? Or just harbingers of your strengths?

Also, I thought these images were fitting. The children at a park near my apartment have no fear when it comes to swings, ladders, towers, and merry-go-rounds. They see and conquer. They are Goliaths.

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david and goliath malcolm gladwell

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

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  1. Reply


    Sounds like a great read, I’ll have to check it out! The photos of the children on the playground are so beautiful too 🙂

  2. Reply


    I so relate to your third paragraph. Honestly I thought I was reading about myself! It’s good to feel you’re not alone in the same situation

  3. Reply


    Sounds like an interesting book. I think my husband read The Tipping Point (maybe Blink, as well). I’ve noticed that in a lot of areas, turning weaknesses to strengths can make you better than good. As an example…I got sucked into America’s Next Top Model for awhile. I noticed that often the “prettiest” girl wouldn’t win or have the best shoots, but the unique or even odd-looking girl who played up her uniqueness would have the best shots. Fashion can be like that, too. How many ugly or weird looks have been turned “cool” because someone wore them with confidence? Maybe this isn’t exactly what he was talking about, but it goes along similar lines. If we could turn our weaknesses into strengths and/or work through them, we’d be better than if we never had to struggle. Aren’t the best artworks often the best because of the struggle that made you see beyond your original vision?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Gladwell talks about struggling too in his book. He cites a study where a group of lawyers (?) were split into two. The first group conducted a set of tasks without struggling, and the second group performed the same set of tasks but with obstacles. The second group scored higher and Gladwell thinks its because struggling raises cognitive awareness. When we throw struggle into the mix, we actually try more/harder. Isn’t that interesting?

      • Reply

        Natasha Estrada

        Well you kind of have to. Probably why giving kids everything they want when they are young means they end up resilient as adults. It’s not the entitlement per say since I think most people would like to be thought as hard working is they just don’t know how to go about it and they start adults at step one.

  4. Reply


    Sounds like a really interesting book and thanks for the shout out about my blog and winning the giveaway! The rulers arrived and are amazing! Thanks again for writing such a great blog and being a sewing inspiration!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I hope you enjoy the rulers!

  5. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    Y’know even though I prefer to communicate and do business via email I think I’m better verbally. I’m sure my therapist would love it I wrote my thoughts down before a session but in some ways I’m so mercurial that what I wrote one day might not be applicable the next.

    Ok mercurial makes me sound like a b but really I mean what bothers me one day won’t the next.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I’m guilty of the same thing.

  6. Reply


    what a great post–i read it yesterday and thought it about it all night. i love that last bit especially.

    that said my weakness is making everything too damn tight. as in the LB i wore last night. i’m not seeing the upside of it, especially considering how i felt after eating a burger in that dress…

  7. Reply

    Amy Alan

    I can’t say I agree with you, Maddie. You are perfectly lovely to talk to on the phone! 😉 I never would have known that you don’t feel particularly comfortable with sharing your thoughts thru word rather than writing.

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