Underdogs & Misfits

I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. And, saw “Dallas Buyers Club” (if someone fits the bill as an underdog or misfit, it’s Ron Woodruff, imo). I love, love, loved that movie.

I felt so comforted reading and watching these stories, likely because I have been feeling like an underdog/misfit myself. I have felt like an outsider many times in my life (a huge motivation for going to Berkeley for college), but never so much as right now. I also really appreciated Gladwell’s reframing of what it means to be the little person (in his traditional style). It’s not about being weaker or smaller or having less resources and then miraculously overcoming a situation: there are advantages to things we normally see as disadvantages, disadvantages to things we normally see as advantages, some level of difficulty that actually leaves us stronger in the end, and limits to the big person’s power (power has its limits). There are so many ways in which the underdog actually has the advantages in a tricky situation, and may actually yield more power than the “powerful” person.

One of the parts I liked the most from Gladwell’s book is about the Big Five theory of personality, and how innovators tend to be not only open to new ideas and conscientious and persistent, but also tend to be pretty darn disagreeable. (You can take a free test here; it measures openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. I’m relatively to pretty high on all of them according to this test). Being disagreeable, according to Gladwell, isn’t just about being rude or selfish- it’s about bucking social norms and expectations in favor of pursuing ideas and values outside the box or norm. In this way, I would think of myself as pretty disagreeable. Not that it’s always comfortable for me to be disagreeable in this sense, but I think I have become more that way. (In the way that agreeableness is traditionally discussed-unselfish, helpful, etc-, I am pretty agreeable.)

“The reasonable man [woman! person!] adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ~George Bernard Shaw

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