I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. I’ve now read all of his books and would be hard-pressed to name a favourite. His latest book is called David & Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, and I am reading it through for a second time.
All of his books have that effect on me. I read it the first time and as one reviewer said of his writing, “He is the best kind of writer – the kind who makes you feel like you’re a genius, rather than he’s a genius” The Times.
Then a few weeks or months later, when I feel like I may have run out people to talk to about the ‘genius of Malcolm Gladwell’, and the imported genius that I loved soon after finishing his book has begun to wear off, I find myself returning to the book in question to absorb a deeper layer of real understanding. This time, forgetting about the genius factor, and simply trying to truly learn some helpful insights.
In David & Goliath, Gladwell looks at another wide variety of case studies that all incorporate the same thought. Namely, that adversity – in all its many and seemingly wicked guises – can actually, in many situations, emerge as a catalyst for real, positive change. I am still only halfway through my second reading, so to attempt to explain any more than that would do my favourite non-fiction author a disservice. In other words, I am still grasping the wonderful insights.
What I will say is this: in one chapter, he talks about how contrary to the high command of both the German and British military on the eve of the Blitz, during World War Two, the British public were not terrorised into mass evacuation, leading to the meltdown of military manufacturing, and eventual collapse of the entire war effort, before it had even had a chance to get going. On the contrary, their resolve was truly galvanised. This is what a Canadian psychiatrist, J.T. MacCurdy wrote shortly after the war had ended in his book, The Structure of Morale:
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…When we have been afraid that we may panic in an air-raid, and, when it has happened, we have exhibited to others nothing but a calm exterior and we are now safe, the contrast between the previous apprehension and the present relief and feeling of security promotes a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.
So, my question for you is simple: You may not have experienced anything quite so potentially terrifying as an air-raid but what have you faced before, and overcome, and how did this make you feel?
Or, better still, what are you currently facing that could be both fear-inducing and yet have the potential to inject you with such self-confidence on the other side that you will be encouraged beyond recognition?
Be en-couraged! Have more courage injected into you at every and any opportunity!