I would love to tell you that I bought this book because I was interested in the tale of the underdog.
Instead, it’s much simpler than that.
I bought the book because Malcolm Gladwell is a New York Times Best Seller and at one time was fortunate enough to have ‘Blink,’ ‘Outliers’ and ‘The Tipping Point’ all in the top ten at the same time.
I have read ‘Blink’ and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I also own the other two, but must confess they are gathering dust to the left of the one armed statue I brought back from Africa – the one my son says, ‘is proof that I am weird.’
Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Lippmann once famously said, ‘Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
This is why I believe so many people fall into the alcohol trap, and it’s also the reason that I chose to buy this book. If everyone loves Gladwell enough to elevate his books to the stratosphere then that’ll do for me.
I don’t much like thinking if I can help it. It gives me a headache.
So what good can this book do for someone recovering from a destructive habit such as alcoholism?
If you take the book at face value you would believe that it’s a story of how the weak can defeat the strong; and yet it’s more a tale of how the strong aren’t as strong as you believe…well that and a lot of bluster about how weaknesses can be turned into absolute strengths.
When David marched towards Goliath all bets were off.
The Cheerleaders who were once busy singing, “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough,’ were inconspicuous by their songbird absence, and the only thing that Goliath was in danger of was being killed by was an out of control batch of tumbleweed.
He was going to get his head kicked in.
Nobody gave him a cat in hells chance.
But Gladwell helps you see, that it was Goliath that never stood a chance. Not David. David was always going to triumph because there were too many chinks in Goliath’s armour.
Goliath couldn’t see it, the watching armies couldn’t see it, and the busty cheerleaders couldn’t see it – but David could see it.
When I chose to quit drinking I felt like David. I knew a few people who had never drunk alcohol (actually one man I played cards with and a girl I grew up with). I only knew one person who had drunk for many years and then quit. That man was my late Grandfather who one day realised that getting drunk and battering your children wasn’t the best way to gain love, care and attention.
So when I decided to take on this Goliath of a job I felt like a puny little boy holding nothing but a sling and a stone. Everyone I told laughed in my face; most thought it was a fad, and nobody really believed I would last.
When it was obvious that I was not going to go back to the way I was, some people were proud of me, some even envious, but most just took the piss. They looked upon me as if they had just opened the front door to be greeted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It was the archetypal decision of one man versus the army of social proof. I was faced with a tsunami of pluralistic ignorance and I had nowhere to run. Instead I stood strong and took the beating. I never waivered. I chose not to agree with the dogmatic view of the masses. I chose to have my own opinion, challenge everything and work it all out by myself through experience.
I quit alcohol and I am bloody glad that I did.
That tsunami that I endured didn’t just hit me. Waves crashed into the bodies of my friends and family. Everyone was affected by my decision to quit, not least of all, my son.
My decision to quit was one of the reasons that I eventually ended up separating from my first wife and there isn’t a day that doesn’t go past that I don’t worry about the long term affects that will have on my son.
I know that the behaviours of my parents, when I was a child, created the foundation of whom you read of today. My boy will be no different and that scares the hell out of me.
And yet Gladwell reminded me that there isn’t just weakness that emerges from pain and anguish – strength also envelops the human spirit under such circumstances.
Gladwell gives a series of examples of entrepreneurs who suffered from dyslexia and yet used that barrier to grow enough balls to leapfrog over it. Richard Branson and Ikea Founder, Ingvar Kamprad, holding the stone with dyslexia wielding the broadsword.
Suddenly, I had hope.
Instead of a son devoid of abilities accrued through joint parenting, I would have a son that would evolve amazing abilities due to his need to manage life with a father who pops in ‘from time to time.’
I knew in that instance that it was my challenges that made me strong, and I felt a warm honey like sensation that my son would do the same.
So why should you buy this book?
I guess it’s a little like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s not as good as the first movie…BUT IT’S THE LORD OF THE RINGS FOR PEATS SAKE…YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT.
So Malcolm Gladwell fans get in cue.
From the point of view of a ‘decent thought provoking’ read, then I suggest you buy something else. There will be a zillion books better than this, although that doesn’t mean to say that this was a bad book. It’s like Peanut Butter ice cream. It’s great, but it’s not Dulce de Leche.
From the standpoint of a recovering alcoholic trying to gain a foothold and inch further up that wall to success?
Give it a miss.
This book isn’t designed for you. The lessons you learn can be picked up elsewhere. It’s a good read to pass the time of day, but you don’t have time to pass the time of day.
You’re too busy living a Lean Life and picking up stones ready to sling at the myriad of Goliath’s that are going to be cuing up ready to knock ten tons of shit out of you.
But don’t worry…you’re going to learn to see the chinks in their armour.
Have you come across a David v Goliath story during your recovery from addiction?
Photo by JD Hancock CC @ Flickr.com