Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer at the New Yorker the author of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, appeared on "The Glenn Beck Program" Monday to discuss the biblical story after which his book was named, and the profound impact it has on us today.
The author began with a discussion of how "disadvantages are often advantageous."
Like the underdog David, Gladwell said an abnormally high percentage of wildly successful people struggled with ADD or dyslexia early in life, and many credit that disadvantage with spurring them to think and learn differently.
"But by the end of the book what I realized that what I really wanted to talk about was faith," Gladwell told Beck, "the weapons of the spirit."
Gladwell said that in writing the book, he has a "renewed appreciation for the power that faith gives people."
"Sometimes people of faith don't always understand how powerful their faith makes them," he remarked. "...There were lots of committed Christians in France who didn't have the courage to go up against the Nazis because they thought they were at a hopeless disadvantageous ... It's just this little group in the mountain who thought, 'Woah, armed with the spirit of the Lord, we can more than hold our own against a bunch of guys with tanks.'"
Gladwell also proceeded to highlight how David's slingshot was far superior for the task at hand than conventional weapons, like a sword and shield.
"David understands that with superior technology and the spirit of the lord, 'I am not the underdog,'" Gladwell remarked. "With those two things on his side, he's the favorite isn't he?"
Beck seemed stunned, and couldn't believe that Gladwell is a staff writer for the New Yorker, but Gladwell only laughed and said he would not have spoken the same way three years ago.
At the end of the program, the two discussed a concept Gladwell phrased as "desirable difficulty."
"This is this notion that we need to do a better job of distinguishing between the kinds of things that genuinely cause pain and suffering, and the kinds of adversity that are necessary for growing stronger and learning," the author said. "And we have confused these two categories. And it's time that we sat down and had a conversation about [that]..."
He used the example of parents and government constantly trying to make school classes smaller, but said that performance sometimes decreases in such situations. It's not terrible for children to "figure things out" on their own, without constant supervision by the teacher, Gladwell said.
"There are certain kinds of adversity that can have a profoundly beneficial effect on character," Gladwell summarized.
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