Tuesday, July 19, 2022

David and Goliath - Malcolm Gladwell

The question and wonder that has become a metaphor: “How did David manage to achieve such an improbable feat as beating Goliath?”.
The answer, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, can be found in another question: why do we suppose that David is the weaker party, the underdog, the likely loser?” Maybe we haven’t assessed the situation well enough. Let’s see: Goliath is an awkward giant (probably due to a rare disease), pinned to the ground by a heavy armour, nearly blind (probably due to the same illness), not agile, armed with swords and daggers, ready for close range combat, in the middle of a vast expanse with no defense supplied by the environment. David, on the other hand, is slim, young, agile, dressed lightly, coming down from a hill, armed with a sling that he is very skilled at using (he’s a shepherd by trade, and he often has to chase - and kill - fierce predators). Plus, he is clever, and is not gonna engage his enemy on a body to body fight. He stops a few dozen meters from Goliath, loads his sling with a heavy stone and shoots. Bang! Goliath can’t even see the projectile coming, is hit on his head and dies on the spot.
Surprised? Really? Does it look like the giant even had a chance?
There are countless other examples of apparently surprising success stories that actually shouldn’t surprise us at all, if we analysed the odds more accurately.
Wanna find out more? Gladwell’s book is unsurprisingly full of inspiring examples.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Mr nice - Howard Marks

I’ve seen this book on the shelves of the second hand bookstores of pretty much all the places I’ve visited in the last two decades. It’s one the young travellers’ favourites. Sometimes a shop might even have three or four copies of it, which for a used book is a lot. It’s not surprising though, being it the autobiography of Howard Marks, a famous dope smuggler that eluded capture while importing tons of weed and hashish to the US and Europe for decades, making millions of dollars, living in luxury in England, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, smoking the best cannabis, visiting exotic places and living an adventurous life. A hero for many young travellers.
And that’s exactly why I’ve always ignored it: I thought it was a shallow and silly topic. Last month though I changed my mind and bought a copy of it. The guy was really “nice”, extremely talented and smart. Before becoming a smuggler he got a higher degree in Physics at Oxford University, Balliol College. He was not a ruthless criminal at all, he never engaged in violent activities and he only strictly stuck to cannabis products. No heroin, cocaine, pills or meth.
The story reminds me a bit of “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts, with a touch of Keith Richards’ “Life” and obviously a pinch of other dope smugglers' biographies, such as “Blow”, a movie featuring Johnny Depp.
If you liked any of those stories you might also enjoy this one.