Malcolm Gladwell at the Barclays Asia Forum in Hong Kong in 2014
|Born||Malcolm Timothy Gladwell
September 3, 1963
Fareham, Hampshire, UK
|Occupation||Non-fiction writer, journalist|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Toronto|
The Tipping Point (2000)
So, it's a very, you know – maybe we're wrong in – you know, we go around thinking the innovator is the person who's first to kind of conceive of something. And maybe the innovation process continues down the line to the second and the third and the fourth entrant into a field.
There is an important idea in psychology: The 'just world theory,' which says that it is very important for us to convince ourselves that the world is just and things happen for a reason. That there is some elemental fairness in everything, which creates the illusion of justice.
You think it matters to the kids whether they're learning to play on a Steinway or a normal piano?
If you go to an elite school where the other students in your class are all really brilliant, you run the risk of mistakenly believing yourself to not be a good student.
The paradox of endurance sports is that an athlete can never work as hard as he wants, because if he pushes himself too far, his hematocrit will fall.
In cross-country skiing, athletes propel themselves over distances of ten and twenty miles – a physical challenge that places intense demands on the ability of their red blood cells to deliver oxygen to their muscles.
We need to be clear when we venerate entrepreneurs what we are venerating. They are not moral leaders. If they were moral leaders, they wouldn't be great businessmen.
I don't want a door bell. I don't want anyone ringing my door bell… seems to be intrusive. They can call me on their cell phones.
I have profoundly mixed feelings about the Affordable Care Act. What I love about it is its impulse. It attempts to deal with this intractable problem in American health care life, which is that a significant portion of the population does not have access to quality medical care.
I've had the most untraumatic life a human being can have. But I've always been drawn to those who have had far more complicated histories.
The older I get, the more I understand that the only way to say valuable things is to lose your fear of being correct.
An incredibly high percentage of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. That's one of the little-known facts.
I remember as a kid watching one of the Olympic games, and I was cheering for a big track athlete. He was the favorite to win, and he lost. I realized in that moment the pain he felt was so much greater than the pain that those who never thought they were going to win would have felt had they lost.
If my books appear to a reader to be oversimplified, then you shouldn't read them: You're not the audience!
A handicap is like trying to race and you have a ten pound weight stuck to your waist. That is a handicap.
The willingness to be self-critical in England is much greater than the willingness to be self-critical in America.
If I was President of the United States, I'd rather be right than interesting. If I was CEO of a company, I'd rather be right than interesting. But I'm a journalist – what journalist would rather be right than interesting?
I'm a lot more interested in people than I used to be. I used to be most interested in abstract ideas, and people were an afterthought, but that's changed a bit.
You walk into the class in second grade. You can't read. What are you going to do if you're going to make it? You identify the smart kid. You make friends with him. You sit next to him. You grow a team around you. You delegate your work to others. You learn how to talk your way out of a tight spot.
When I go to my health club, and it's in the basement, you have to take the elevator down. And this drives me crazy. Why can't there be a stairway? At least make it as easy to exercise as it is to not exercise. It's in society's interest for me to take the stairs.
In my mid-adolescence, my friend Terry Martin and I became obsessed with William F. Buckley. This makes more sense when you realize that we were living in Bible Belt farming country miles from civilization. Buckley seemed impossibly exotic.
Rarely do we stop and consider whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest.
That term, 'David and Goliath,' has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger.
If you're last in your class at Harvard, it doesn't feel like you're a good student, even though you really are. It's not smart for everyone to want to go to a great school.
Part of me thinks that innovation, real innovation in health care delivery, needs to happen from the bottom to the top.
It's very hard to find someone who's successful and dislikes what they do.
Of the great entrepreneurs of this era, people will have forgotten Steve Jobs.
The most influential thinker, in my life, has been the psychologist Richard Nisbett. He basically gave me my view of the world.
Many people with dyslexia truly suffer, and their lives are worse off for having had that disability.
I have never read any Tolstoy. I felt badly about this until I read a Bill Simmons column where he confessed that he'd never seen 'The Big Lebowski.' Simmons, it should be pointed out, has seen everything. He said that everyone needs to have skipped at least one great cultural touchstone.
In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals. Nobody walks into an operating room straight out of a surgical rotation and does world-class neurosurgery.
A runner needs not just to be skinny but – more specifically – to have skinny calves and ankles, because every extra pound carried on your extremities costs more than a pound carried on your torso. That's why shaving even a few ounces off a pair of running shoes can have a significant effect.
We all assume that if you're weak and poor, you're never going to win. In fact, the real world is full of examples where the exact opposite happens, where the weak win and the strong screw up.
The most common form of giantism is a condition called acromegaly, and acromegaly is caused by a benign tumor on your pituitary gland that causes an overproduction of human growth hormone. And throughout history, many of the most famous giants have all had acromegaly.
What do we tell our children? Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don't judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation.
Books about spies and traitors – and the congressional hearings that follow the exposure of traitors – generally assume that false-negative errors are much worse than false-positive errors.
For some small number of people, a parental loss appears to be, ultimately, a desirable difficulty – again, not a large number.
The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world.
You don't want to be first, right? You want to be second or third. You don't want to be – Facebook is not the first in social media. They're the third, right? Similarly, you know, if you look at Steve Jobs' history, he's never been first.
Does that mean we should give up? Probably. But there are two issues worth considering. The first is – is it really true that drugs destroy the integrity of the game?
Take the great example of the four-minute mile. One guy breaks it, then all of a sudden everyone breaks it. And they break it in such a short period of time that it can't be because they were training harder. It's purely that it was a psychological barrier, and someone had to show them that they could do it.
I don't think I will ever write about politics or foreign policy. I feel like there is so much good writing in those areas that I have little to add. I also like to steer clear of writing about people whom I do not personally like.
I don't understand, given the constraints physicians have in doing their job and the paperwork demanded of them, why people want to be physicians. I think we've made it very, very difficult for them to perform their job. I think that's a shame.
From medieval tapestries, we know that slingers were capable of hitting birds in flight. They were incredibly accurate.
The great accomplishment of Jobs's life is how effectively he put his idiosyncrasies – his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness – in the service of perfection.
If you're skinny and you can't play hockey in Canada, you aren't left with a lot of options. I was left with running.
The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate. It opens doors and creates opportunities and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.
All three of the great waves of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European immigrants to America innovated.
Age-class running, as you know, is completely unreliable. It's based on this artificial thing, which is that people who are the same age have the same level of physical maturity. Which just isn't true.
Mainstream American society finds it easiest to be tolerant when the outsider chooses to minimize the differences that separate him from the majority. The country club opens its doors to Jews. The university welcomes African-Americans. Heterosexuals extend the privilege of marriage to the gay community.
I'm just trying to say that it should reassure us that the inevitable traumas of being human do end up producing some good. Otherwise, the human condition is overwhelmingly depressing.
The injunction to be nice is used to deflect criticism and stifle the legitimate anger of dissent.
People assume when my hair is long that I am a lot cooler than I actually am. I am not opposed to this misconception, by the way, but it is a misconception.
If Harvard is $60,000 and University of Toronto, where I went to school, is maybe six. So you're really telling me that education is 10 times better at Harvard than it is at University of Toronto? That seems ridiculous to me.
It is useful to compare the Branch Davidians with the Mormons of the mid-nineteenth century. The Mormons were vilified in those years in large part because Joseph Smith believed in polygamy.
You don't train someone for all of those years of medical school and residency, particularly people who want to help others optimize their physical and psychological health, and then have them run a claims-processing operation for insurance companies.
We don't know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don't always appreciate their fragility.
If you think advantage lies in resources, then you think the best educational system is the one that spends the most money.
I grew up in southwestern Ontario in the heart of a Mennonite community. All my family are part of the Mennonite church.
When people from organizations like the World Bank descended on Third World countries, they always tried to remove obstacles to development, to reduce economic anxiety and uncertainty.
When you write about sports, you're allowed to engage in mischief. Nothing is at stake.
An aggressive drug-testing program would cut down on certain abuses, but its never going to catch everyone – or even close to everyone.
There will be statues of Bill Gates across the Third World. There's a reasonable shot that – because of his money – we will cure malaria.
We used to say poor people had lousy genes. Then we decided that wasn't OK, but we transferred the prejudice to upbringing. We said, 'You were neglected as a child, so you'll never make it.' That's just as pernicious.
I am a story-teller, and I look to academic research… for ways of augmenting story-telling.
My rule is that if I interview someone, they should never read what I have to say about them and regret having given me the interview.
Consistency is the most overrated of all human virtues… I'm someone who changes his mind all the time.
Countless religious innovators over the years have played the game of establishing an identity for themselves by accentuating their otherness.
The two contemporary writers whom I consider as role models are Janet Malcolm and Michael Lewis.
There is this tremendous body of knowledge in the world of academia where extraordinary numbers of incredibly thoughtful people have taken the time to examine on a really profound level the way we live our lives and who we are and where we've been. That brilliant learning sometimes gets trapped in academia and never sees the light of day.
The best example of how impossible it will be for Major League Baseball to crack down on steroids is the fact that baseball and the media are still talking about the problem as 'steroids.'
Once you understand that Goliath is much weaker than you think he is, and David has superior technology, then you say: why do we tell the story the way we do? It becomes, actually, a far more meaningful and important story in its retelling than in the kind of unsophisticated way we've done it for, I think, too long.
If you are going to do something truly innovative, you have to be someone who does not value social approval. You can't need social approval to go forward. Otherwise, how would you ever do the thing that you are doing?