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October 01 2014


May 24 2013


October 09 2011

What I've learnt from David and Goliath so far

This is a Quranic story as well as Biblical, so I had the urge to peek in the Quran with the translation to check what's written there (and in some sites, comparing both the biblical & quranic versions in case any plotholes are missing).
Also, Goliath might suffer from acromegaly (giantism).

The way I see it this book is actually the flipside of Outliers while containing some ideas from Blink and Tipping Point; in Outliers we get to know what are the advantages that make successful people what they are today. In David and Goliath, we get to know successful people's disadvantages which caused them to be what they are today. Also, why some advantages actually stop people from succeeding.

 First, some really obvious facts:
- if you're an underdog and you know it, you gotta play outside the rules to beat your opponent cuz playing by their rules is gonna get you down all the time, because within their rules they have all the advantages. This is basically depicted in a lot of book/movie storylines, with the main underdog characters going with a different strategy & eventually winning against their adversaries.
- The inverted U graph. This is a chart that shows how something advantageous can become disadvantageous with an excess amount. Examples including not enough money vs too much money when it comes to parenting & raising kids, or a school teaching kids on classes with too much students vs too little students.

Relative deprivation
- Turns out what school kids need interaction and discussions between people who are just like them, who have the same issues as them, to relate & help them grow up and learn stuff better.
- Also, people need to be in an community where other people feel the same way and get the same stuff as they do in order to feel happier. They need to live with people who relate. This explains why happier countries have higher suicide rates than depressed countries, because in the latter, all the depressed people are like "we're all in this together" while in the former, the depressed people have no one to relate to, cuz everyone else is happy. Gladwell talked about this in one of his interviews.

Little Fish Big Pond vs Big Fish Little Pond
a theory by Herbert Marsh. If one goes into one of those big-shot places for fame & prestige among other high status people, that's being a little fish in a big pond. The flipside is if they choose to go into small-time indie places instead and shine there, making themselves visible. People feel better when they're big fishes in little ponds instead of when they're little fishes in big ponds.

Desirable Difficulty
A disadvantage which can turn a person to push harder in the subject and exceed or make themselves end up doing something else and succeed because of that disadvantage/disability.
- the return of the Big Five Inventory from Blink. This time Gladwell talks about the agreableness meter, and how sometimes people who are unconventionally disagreeable can succeed despite the majority of their community's criticism.
- people with difficulties/disabilities, who are often criticized by people that they can't do certain stuff involving their disadvantage, paired with this headstrong attitude are likely to prove everyone wrong and win at what they're told they couldn't.
- Gifted children who grow up losing a parent, or in a broken home family, or having other types of bad childhood retains their talent/skills in the end compared to their peers who grow up with a normal childhood, cuz the former had something worth fighting for after they've been traumatized, and the latter's skills/talents slowly degrade, due to lack of motivation/challenge. (tbh this explains a lot in my situation & how I became a grade school overachiever to a middle-school slacker).
[One time my dad also said fasting in Ramadan is a desirable difficulty. For example, since we're abstaining from desires like eating and drinking, and finally at dusk when we get to eat stuff at dusk the food tastes way better than usual. Then there's also the toxin-flushing benefit of fasting.]

J.T. MacCurdy on bombings & the effects on people: MacCurdy divides these people who are affected by bombing into 3 groups: the direct hit (who died), the near miss (who probably got injured & severely traumatized) and the remote miss (the ones who witnessed the bombings but are still alive & well). From there Gladwell compared the situation with other different types of situations with difficulties (like dyslexia, childhood trauma, racism attack etc) noting which ones are the "near-misses" & which are "remote misses", the latter which turned out to be a "desirable difficulty" cuz people who had went through a remote miss emerge successfully and became tough as nails because of already conquering their initial trauma.

And then here comes the chapter talking about trickster heroes (one of the cliche underdog tropes) such as Anansi and Brer Rabbit, which the Indonesian equivalent would be Si Kancil (the Mousedeer).
Quite a few chapter talks about the time Martin Luther King Jr and his people rebelled against the KKK, mentioning Fred Shuttlesworth in the previous chapter & Wyatt Walker (the trickster hero) in this one. Gladwell compared Walker to Brer Rabbit, but during the confrontation against Bull Connor, I felt as if King was Odin, Shuttlesworth was Thor and Walker was Loki. It's kinda awesome.

The Limits of Power
This topic is probably what I enjoy most due to my rebellious teenage self. It's about authority and when the massive group it's controlling suddenly rebelled against it. The main point is, rebellion is caused by authority, and if leaders in a group aren't behaving right towards their underlings (especially when they use violence to control their subjects), this will cause them to snap and disobey.
The excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems, and force without legitimacy leads to defiance, not submission.
This chapter talks about how the Protestant majority in Ireland back in the day handled the rebellion of their Catholic minority, and then brings back the Birmingham riot with Bull Connor's people vs Martin Luther King Jr's people, and then about Officer Joanne Jaffe & how she treated the families of thugs with kindness and not asserting herself (as a police officer) to out-thug the thugs, which later got the thugs to like her in the end & stop their crime.

September 23 2011

What I've learnt from Outliers so far

there's always the perfect year to be born in for certain professions due to what society was into that time. Somewhat the other contributing factors besides age & date of birth are surroundings, chances, and ethnic background.
  • Hockey players are preferably born in January, February & March cuz they're pretty much older than the other kids will be in the middle of the year
  • Successful business tycoons are born in the 1830's
  • SuccessfulSoftware engineers are born in 1950's & wouldve been in college in the 1970's (and succeed in the 1980's thanks to lots of practice under the 10 000 hour rule).
  • Jewish lawyers usually have parents/grandparents in garment industry who started their business in the 1890's. Because of their culture they've learnt how to face hardships in business and eventually become successful lawyers (or doctors).

And then there's the 10000-hour rule thing, for mastery reasons. 

Also, wealth status difference can impact in how families raise children. Rich kids have inclusive parents who are constantly involved in their pastime, making schedules & practices and stuff, while poorer kids dont get this cuz their parents seem distant from their life. Rich kids also gets entitlement to be assertive in situations for some reason, while poor kids are raised to be less assertive for some reason.
Rich kids also got the privilege to read a lot of books during their summer vacation and go to museums & places as such to learn more. This lessens the rustiness of the skills they've learnt after summer's over & they did better than the other kids in September.

PART 2: 
  • Your surroundings shaped who you are, in terms of personality, just like how they pass down accents. For example, Southern Americans' violent aggressive attitudes compared to their Northern counterparts.
  • The Southerners descend from Scotch-Irish people in Britain, who are mostly animal herders. Animal herders tend to show an aggressive/protective attitude compared to farmers.
  • The 6 stages of communication/persuasion, explained here
  • Turns out there's such a thing called Power Distance Index. Some countries have low PDI, some have medium PDI & some have high PDI. People raised in countries with high PDI respects the idea of hierarchy more than those raised in countries with low PDI, so they're likely to "fear" and respect people in power, or in a higher status, and tend to mitigate to their superiors when they want to say something (cuz they dont dare to command their superiors). The ones from low PDI countries tend to fight back when they're fought by superiors, treating them like an equal.
    More about PDI and their factors here: Hofstede's cultural dimension theory - Wikipedia | Power Distance Index - ClearlyCultural
  • That stereotype with Asians being better at math? That's due to language and how it helps little kids learn & memorize numbers easier. Take English vs Chinese for example. Chinese words are usually single-syllabled & this includes numbers, n in their language, the settings for saying 2-digit numbers is simpler & more straightforward than in the English language.
    Also, the persistency that has been passed down their culture.
  • Due to most Asian countries cultivating rice in rice fields & had to endure persistency in their work, this persistent behavior gets passed down as a culture and that's why we probably succeed more when it comes to learning. Gladwell also compared the 30000-hour work rice paddy fieldworkers go through in China like the garment work of Jewish immigrants from the earlier story. "It was meaningful" he wrote. Guess thats why Chinese people and Jews have the same mentality when it comes to business.
  • The comparison between wheat fields and rice paddies, and wheat farmers vs rice farmes and how it's eventually related to the comparison of Western vs Asian education (American & Japanese schools as an example). Like fields, studying also needs brief amounts of fallowing (rest) before they start ploughing the fields (getting back to studying) again. The stereotypical American summer holiday gave out too long breaks and the school hours are too long as well.
    My note: It's just better to give about 4 term breaks every year (the final one is the longest, like in Indonesian & Bruneian schools: 1 week for the 1st and 3rd term breaks, 2 weeks for the 2nd term break and a full month for the final term break.
  • It's ok to reject some elements of cultural legacy (usually the constraining ones) to fit in where you wanna be successful, depending on what the situation/environment is.
    Malcolm Gladwell also talks about his Jamaican ancestry from his mom's side, and how their culture & life experience gave her & her family members opportunities to be the educated people they became. He talks about Jamaica back in the slavery age and the white immigrants' attitude towards slaves, some which they use to breed kids of different shades of color, and how these people valued lighter skin shades more (kinda sad hearing the truth tbh).

    What I've learnt from Tipping Point so far

    A tipping point is when something (which is seemingly little) began spreading/multiplying/gaining popularity like crazy.

    Word-of-mouth influences are more effective than TV commercials or newspaper & radio ads cuz the information often comes from someone we know and trust, so we're more moved by that.

    Three things that can cause a tipping point is: Stickiness Factor, Law of the Few, and the power of context.
    Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen rely on the Law Of The Few.

    - connectors are usually people-person, introducing people to people, gaining as much contacts information as possible. The Law of the Few here applies to the fact that they prefer to go for "the weak link" that is keeping everyone else as acquaintances on the same level instead of being close friends with them.

    - mavens collect information, sometimes starting them from way back when. They solve their own problems to help other people, like they'd legit tell people to do this and that from the information and experience they've gained.

    - salesmen: often persuasive and optimistic.They somehow get people to go for what they recommended. The Law of the Few here is the small, really subtle mirroring/mimicing gestures they use when they converse with people. By doing this they connect with these people emotionally & pretty much convinced these people on what choice they should take.

    The Stickyness Factor: This is kinda hard to think up cuz people need to be creative enough to think outside the box and find something that makes the message stick to people's heads, with as small as the effort may seem. The factors are:
    - Interactivity, cuz humans need to actually DO things, and action makes information more memorable. Watching TV usually puts us in a static passive mode & all the info from the TV wont stay in our head too long.
    - Repetition. This works on children cuz adults got bored of things replayed over and over again. Children are still learning & they're surrounded by new things, and to make those things stick in their heads (usually educational stuff) TV shows, books, etc. have to repeat the message over and over again.

    This section talks about Sesame Street & Blue's Clues as examples, and how children can remember characters' names if they have a literal description as a name & not actual proper names.

    The Power of Context: People's usual/default behavior & attitudes can change depending on which situation they're put in. Normally good people, when conditioned & made to think they're prisoners or prison guards eventhough it's only pretend jail, can behave like real prisoners & prison guards. Honest people can cheat in tests depending on what's written in the test papers, or how the tests are constructed.
    The context that triggers people's behavioral change can be really subtle ones, like sightings of vandalism in an environment can trigger people (who are usually messed-up in the first place) to commit crime, triggering other people around to do the same too, tipping the crime rate.

    Also, humans aren't really that good in noticing subtle signals from their surroundings & identifying where the context is & just stick to signals exhibited from other people.

    An example of this is New Yorkers tend to behave like: where when one is in a crowd, one tends to act less on a sudden situation and just ignore it instead cuz the context here is that everyone is rushing and they automatically ignore "small" incidents that might be distractions, instead of acting up on said incidents & being the good samaritan they are.

    - As explained in Outliers about how the Southern Americans act & the relation to their Scotch-Irish descent, people don't necessarily inherit traits & personalities from their parents 100%. Sure their genes contribute to their children, but the way the children behave is usually due to influence from surroundings, from other people.

    - Adopted children dont necessarily act just like their adoptive parents compared to biological children & parents.

    It's one thing reaching out to individuals to spread information and make it tip, but a more effective way is to reach out to groups. Groups amplify the spreading effect and all you gotta do is reach out to one member of certain groups, and they'll spread the info to the rest of the group & the results will amplify.

    There's this rule called The 150 Rule. When managing groups, it's a good reason to consider the members' amount & keep their relations healthy, based on stories of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood fanclubs, Methodism, the Hutterites clan and a company called Gore (in which everyone's treated as equals, everyone's position is Associate, and everyone pretty much have the same-looking offices & the structure is not at all hierarchial).
    Inside this main group of 150, people will form alliances and form smaller sub-groups, strengthening the bonds and relationships and they dont have to know everyone individually. I'm starting to see big bubbles containing tiny people inside them, connected by strings a.k.a. the connectors.

    When people are around other people they know very well, turns out their memory works way better than when they're around strangers they never met.

    To set a trend there are stages of groups of people from where trends are transmitted: The trendsetters, the innovators (usually small groups of cool kids, hipsters, etc) and the mainstream. Sometimes in order to make a trend tip to the mainstream, the innovators require translators to make the message stick to this big group of random people and sadly sometimes they alter bits of the information, depleting & exaggerating them to strongly gain people's attention. They'd try and succeed in making the message stick even if it means taking away the truth :\

    How someone can influence a great number of people depends on how sociable and influential they are. Sometimes it's their personality that got other people into copying their actions, like how teen smoking is & how most smokers think the people that got them into smoking had this cool, rebellious image and they copied this action anyway despite knowing the dangers of smoking. It's the same case with a kid who committed suicide in Micronesia (only suicide is way more harmful & fatal than smoking). These cool kids act as the "salesmen" in these situations.

    There's actually a border towards being an addict from being just a casual doer (usually describing things like smoking, alcohol, & other addictive stuff). Casual doers a.k.a. chippers can keep things under control and not go overboard cuz they havent reached this limit yet. Addicts have crossed that line.

    And lastly, trendsetters shouldnt be afraid of testing & experimenting ideas and seeing if the message will stick or the trend will tip. Test them in several places cuz not every place has similar context. But first, ya gotta look at & observe the target audience.

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