Thursday, April 10, 2014

Most Influential Books I've Ever Read

A few weeks ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I read the book David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell. It wasn't what I expected it to be. I had predicted a book about how small businesses can beat out big ones.
If you've ever read a Gladwell book before, you can feel free to laugh at how little I knew about his writings style.
That was far, far, far away from what the book was actually about.
Here's the actual description from Amazon:
Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won.
Or should he have?
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland's Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms---all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.
The book pretty much blew my mind. It was fascinating and an addictive, engaging read.
It was so good, that before I was even finished with it, I went and downloaded Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink to my Nook.

 I'm about halfway through Outliers: The Story of Success.  It isn't just fascinating and engaging. It has me reconsidering my life, my successes, and how I have compared myself to others (both in and out of my generation) for years.
In a strange way, looking at the world through this new prism Outliers has given me, has made me feel better about my life. It has given me permission and understanding to take certain pressures off my past failures.
If that doesn't make sense, here's the real description of the book:
There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. And in revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.
It has turned my view on "low hanging fruit" around, and helped me accept why sometimes there isn't "low hanging fruit" available.
The book makes this fascinating case study about why guys like Bill Gates have experienced so much success. Gladwell presents much of this with scientific and anthropological fact. It is all quite fascinating to see what common threads these "outliers" share. And to understand why there hasn't been another success story to the same degree of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. (Although using the knowledge gained in this book I can see now the same pattern that sets Mark Zuckerberg apart.)
But in a very strange way, Outliers has strengthened my faith and belief in God. While the book may present it all as a series of events and fortunate timing, the Christian, God-believing heart can see more. I see that it wasn't a series of good luck and fortune. But that God in His infinite wisdom made sure that someone with the talents and gifts of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were placed on Earth at those strategic times so that they could be outliers.
The point is made very clear in the book that if Bill Gates had been more just a few years earlier or a few years later, +/- 3 years maybe, they would not have enjoyed the successes that we have so generously benefited from.
If you haven't read these books yet, I highly recommend them. They are, without reservation, the most enjoyable non-fiction studies I have ever had the good fortune to pick up and read. You'll forget you are reading non-fiction because the storytelling is just that good.
Go pick them up today!

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