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Tame Your Goliath, Book Review of Gladwell's David and Goliath

In an interview with Inc., author of David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Gladwell, says: “This book is fundamentally about the weapons of the spirit”. In his inimitable style, Gladwell skillfully weaves together personal stories, history and psychology to challenge conventional wisdom about advantages and disadvantages. He has much to tell us about how we can reframe the changes that come as we live.


  • Builds confidence with thought-provoking stories

  • Challenges your thinking with thought provoking questions

  • Reshapes your idea of personal difficulty

  • Learn how possibility is often created out of struggle


Desirable Difficulties

Building on the 1994 learning research outcomes of R. A. Bjork, Gladwell masterfully illustrates how disadvantages in life can make us stronger and can even become advantages in the long run. Bjork coined this phenomenon “Desirable Difficulty” - meaning a learning task that requires a considerable but desirable amount of effort, thereby improving performance. His research showed that difficult tasks may slow you down at first, but the long-term benefits of overcoming something difficult vs. easy are greater.

Masterful Storytelling

The author makes his case for desirable difficulties through a captivating narrative of personal stories. These stories cross over the lives of those who successfully adapted to dyslexia through unforeseen techniques, a doctor who changed the course of treatment for childhood leukemia in spite of an emotionally scarring childhood, survivors of the WWII London bombings who developed unbeatable spirits, countless leaders who lost a parent at a young age, the tenacity of an often struck down but never beaten civil rights leader and more.


The chapters of this enlightening book build on each other to make a solid case for the idea of desirable difficulties. The most compelling for me was Chapter 5, which features the irascible and tenacious Dr.Jay Freireich. The disadvantage of his childhood experiences expressed itself in an undeterred, courageous tenacity that led to an effective treatment for cancer in children.


The concept of a desirable difficulty makes me consider my own journey following my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 41. After the results were confirmed, I had never felt so powerless and afraid for myself. The worst fear was the unknown physical consequence of the disease. Until I started to take control of what I could – my own commitment to self-care I remained panic-stricken. Research led me to incorporate the practices of Dr. Dean Ornish, pioneer of integral medicine who recommended yoga, meditation, eating a more plant based diet and connection with others. These practices helped me conquer my own Goliath - a rushing train of negative thoughts. What I had once seen as a disadvantage became a desirable difficulty.

Changes often associated with aging can become a Goliath for many. The core practices on this site can the David for your Goliath. An unforeseen new connection, purpose or new pursuit may arise. These practices strengthen your body and resolve for what comes next. What you may have formerly considered to be a disadvantage may become an unpredictable advantage.

Notable quotes from this book:

“What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.”

“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you've been through the tough times and you discover they aren't so tough after all.”

Mindful Writing Prompt: What is one of your desirable difficulties?

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