The Importance Of Effort: Malcolm Gladwell

The Importance Of Effort: Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian journalist, best-selling author, speaker, and now host of a widely popular podcast Revisionist History, is a master storyteller. TED describes him as a “detective of fads and emerging subcultures, chronicler of jobs-you-never-knew-existed, Malcolm Gladwell’s work is toppling the popular understanding of bias, crime, food, marketing, race, consumers, and intelligence. “ Often counterintuitive, his work cut through strange ideas, difficult concepts, and rare happenings to uncover commanding trends and offers accessible new understanding to things.

He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996 [he recently left the job to run a podcast] and written five books all five of which have been in New York Times bestseller list. His work has brought the ideas like 10,000 hours rule to the attention of the mainstream audience and popularized the concepts like tipping point. Malcolm’s work and talks offer deep insight into how things and the world works, often in a counterintuitive way. He says: “There is more going on beneath the surface than we think, and more going on in little, finite moments of time than we would guess.”

Time and time again if you look at the stories of extraordinarily important entrepreneurs there is almost always a moment when they are the only ones who believe in the value of what they’re doing.

Image by Florian Klauer

Be deeply disagreeable

Malcolm Gladwell: It is not enough to have a great idea and the focus and the conscientiousness. To see it to fruition you must have the strength and the resolve and the courage to pursue that idea even when the rest of the world thinks you’re insane.

Time and time again if you look at the stories of extraordinarily important entrepreneurs there is almost always a moment when they are the only ones who believe in the value of what they’re doing. You know, in my book David and Goliath, I told the story of the guy who founded IKEA and the crucial moment in the story of IKEA is when he faces a boycott from the other furniture manufacturers in Sweden.

He was about to go out of business and in desperation, he moves his operations across the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Poland and set up shop in Poland and that’s what IKEA is IKEA is essentially furniture shipped flat made in Poland that’s the original elevator pitch for IKEA. What’s interesting about that is he does it in 1961 at the height of the cold war at a time when east and west, communist world and free world were closer to outright war than at any other time in history.

A guy living in the West Sweden crosses the Iron Curtain and set up shop in Poland, you cannot imagine what a controversial move that was. That would be like Walmart opening operations in North Korea. Really it was on that level of kind of eyebrow-raising you’ve got to be kidding me. Who is this guy kind of thing but he does it and persists and he turns his back on all those critics why because he was a deeply disagreeable person. He didn’t need people to agree with him right and that’s how he’s able to build Ikea into this extraordinary runaway success story.

That’s very hard to do as human beings we are hardwired to want the approval of our peers.

Consciously differentiate yourself

Malcolm Gladwell: I think my strategy has always been that you have to very consciously differentiate yourself from where you think your professional peer group is going. If people read things that are accessible online I feel I should all migrate to things that are inaccessible online.

I may not be able to outspend you but I can outwork you. Well, outworking is a tall order, it is not easy to do you know that

Outwork your competition

Malcolm Gladwell: The choice you have as an underdog is if you’re going to choose to fight and fight to win there are a series of strategies available to you but they are all more costly than the strategies available to the favorite. Effort is one of the routes available to the underdog.

I may not be able to outspend you but I can outwork you. Well, outworking is a tall order, it is not easy to do you know that.

Anyone who has worked in a startup knows that this is one of the stressful parts of it but successful startups, I’ve never seen any actual data on this, but do we think the people working for successful startups work longer hours than people who work for fortune 500 companies? My guess is yes.

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