Malcolm Gladwell: My Favorite Quotes from this Social Science Guru

If I had to highlight one author that has had the greatest impact on my psychological growth over the past few years, it would be Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian born author and speaker. He is a long term writer for The New Yorker, and previously, a reporter for the Washington Post. His books make social science mainstream, relatable and almost cool. His theories will make you think differently about your how and why you work, the environment in your home and the culture of your family, your relationships with your children, your spouse and your friends.

Truly, I could write a book about how much insight I have gained from these books, so in lieu of a 10 page blog post, I have extracted some of my favorite quotes. Gladwell will challenge you to think differently about conventional wisdom. He will explore neurological, sociological and psychological misconceptions about how we learn, grow, make decisions and succeed. I promise you will be surprised!

Note: I realize there is one here that I haven’t included: What the Dog Saw: and other adventures. I purchased it, but haven’t yet read it. Stay turned, I will let you know what I think (but I’m certain it will be just as good as the rest)!

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point studies the moment when an idea or a trend catches fire and becomes an epidemic. It explores how little changes can yield monumental effects, and what makes something “sticky” enough to become widespread information.

“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

“A book, I was taught long ago in English class, is a living and breathing document that grows richer with each new reading.”

“A critic looking at these tightly focused, targeted interventions might dismiss them as Band-Aid solutions. But that phrase should not be considered a term of disparagement. The Band-Aid is an inexpensive, convenient, and remarkably versatile solution to an astonishing array of problems. In their history, Band-Aids have probably allowed millions of people to keep working or playing tennis or cooking or walking when they would otherwise have had to stop. The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost.”

“For younger kids, repetition is really valuable. They demand it. When they see a show over and over again, they not only are understanding it better, which is a form of power, but just by predicting what is going to happen, I think they feel a real sense of affirmation and self-worth.”


Blink examines how our historical experiences shape our subconcisious and allow us to make rapid decisions. He discuses how we think about thinking and how we sometimes make bad decisions based on what we think is thorough, rational, research.

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

“Anyone who has ever scanned the bookshelves of a new girlfriend or boyfriend- or peeked inside his or her medicine cabinet- understands this implicitly; you can learn as much – or more – from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face.”

“When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.”



Outliers explores what role innate talent and effort play, compared to environment and circumstance on the path to success.

“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.”

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success.”

“IQ is a measure, to some degree, of innate ability. But social savvy is knowledge. It’s a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from somewhere, and the place where we seem to get these kinds of attitudes and skills is from our families.”


David and Goliath

Just like in the story of David and Goliath, this book challenges the way we tend to think of “underdogs” and “Goliaths”. He explores the factors and skillets that truly lead to success.

“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”

“Any fool can spend money. But to earn it and save it and defer gratification—then you learn to value it differently.”

“There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources- and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.”

“But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.”


Here is a link for more information: View Some of Gladwell’s Inspiring TED Talks


with grace and salt, kirsten

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