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Reading Malcolm Gladwell

I am in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath. This is my second Gladwell book and I’ve skimmed another one or two. I see his fascination with events and people who don’t fit the mold. I hear him trying to understand how things turn out well for the marginalized–the disadvantaged. And who are these people? Depending on your circumstances, the year you were born, or how your brain is wired, it could be you. That’s what I like about Gladwell. The subject is both the winner and the loser at any given moment.

In my case, I am reading about dyslexia in chapter four-ish or something. I have some family members who have been diagnosed with dyslexia and others whom the rest of us speculate have it, if not something far more devastating.

As it is with Gladwell, he paints a complex picture of the dyslexic child turned adult who would probably never have succeeded, to the degree they have, if not for this disadvantage. Which makes him argue, that in their case, dyslexia is an advantage. He goes on to note several well-known, successful entrepreneurs who are dyslexic. Apparently, at least one third of all entrepreneurs are dyslexic.

I am feeling a lot better about someone in my family. All the dots are connecting for me. Suddenly, what I saw as a balloon with a slow leak might actually be a rocket preparing for lift off. But that’s how it is with me. I read something and cling onto it too tightly. But at least for that day, the world made sense to me.

Then I read paragraph six. “One third of all prison inmates are also dyslexic.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Success or imprisonment? I suppose the other one third are living perfectly ordinary lives working in utterly normal jobs with no problems. But these percentages probably describe the bulk of humanity. And even if these percentage are meaningful, how can I be assured that my loved one ends up in the preferred percentage? Of course I can’t. And I hate that.

So we attend parent education workshops on diagnosing and managing dyslexia and its cousins ADD and ADHD. We talk to educators, tutors, and adults in the workplace who have been diagnosed and function quite well. At the end of the day, we circle back to the idea that we have very little control over a lot of what happens. Even with the best interventions, you can’t guarantee your child or family member will end up being the founder of Virgin Records instead of an inmate at San Quentin. But at least we are well informed. Prepared to act. And this brings some comfort. As does reading Gladwell.

And here’s why: He uncovers something you thought was a bad thing and convinces you it could be a good thing. That’s what reading Gladwell is like. He turns your thinking all around. And in the end, you can find hope in the tiny crevice of possibility he reveals. At least that’s how it is with me.

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