"The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell 


Additional thought of Graham White in highlights.

This book doesn't attempt to connect all of the information it contains in a way that makes it an easy read.  In fact, one of the points the book makes is that the world is much more complex than we like to think.  What the book does well is provide critical information that enables understanding of why some people do so well at things you may struggle with and vice-versa.

This book deals with with the concept that we are not all born equal, and that there is not a level playing field in the areas of "success" as it is commonly defined.  There are a few key things that create an unfair advantage for those that were born with those gifts.

By understanding more about your natural abilities and areas where you may not be so gifted, you may find it easier to accept that you are not destined for fame and fortune...but that doesn't mean you aren't important, or that your role in your field, with your friends or your family is not critical.

This book does not prove that people born without the gifts it describes can't be "successful" (achieving fame, wealth, power and notoriety), but it does address what advantages make these things happen more naturally. 

Personality type is a great way to understand more about ones self, and this book provides another perspective on gifts and abilities.

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One of the things that motivated me to write The Tipping Point was the mystery of word of mouth - a phenomenon that everyone seemed to agree was important but no one seemed to know how to define.  It is on this subject that readers have talked to me the most over the last year, and on which I have thought the most as well.  What is now obvious to me - but was not at the time I wrote The Tipping Point - is that we are about to enter the age of word of mouth, and that, paradoxically, all of the sophistication and wizardry and limitless access to information of the New Economy is going to lead us to rely more and more on very primitive kinds of social contacts.  

There are a multitude of books and courses available on how to become more like these people who have really "made it", but the truth is, the biggest reason these people achieved the notoriety of their fame, wealth and power, was that it was a natural result of their personality.  Paying someone to "teach" you how to have this type of personality may be futile if it is completely contrary to who you naturally are.

2 - 3% of the population really "succeeds" by popular definition.  A large portion of the population simply lives their lives, while another fraction of the population are dismal failures.  I don't really believe that it is possible to change this "bell curve of life".  I do believe that we can flatten it out a little.  I'll explain more about what I mean as we progress through this book.

A very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a very few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through these special few.  They are broken down in the book into three types of categories:

  • Mavens:  Individuals with a passionate desire to collect massive amounts of information in their areas of interest, decipher it and then deliver their findings with great pleasure to those who will listen (the type of person who might work for or have strong interest in the publication "Consumer Reports").

  • Connectors: Individuals who have a vast network of casual friends and acquaintances.  They love meeting people and people love meeting them.  They have a natural affinity for making people feel important and good about themselves.  (Many talk show hosts have this type of personality).

  • Natural salesmen:  I'm not talking about used care salesmen.  I'm referring to the types of people who seem to be able to effortlessly convince of their position.  People who you WANT to like, you want to know more about what they are selling.  You may have encountered this type server in a restaurant, one that was so talented at describing the specials of the day that even though you only planned to spend $10, you know you were happy to spend the $40 that the final bill came to.

There are two other categories of people that I see experience a fair degree of success in life.  They are:

  • Talented professionals and entrepreneurs:  There is little doubt that people who have exceptional talent in their field and are responsible about the way that they work can do well financially and that if they maintain balance in the other areas of their life, they will do quite well.

  • Diligent plodders:  Every business owner loves the employee who is always on time, does everything that is asked of them and is completely reliable.  This type of individual will always have work, good references and loyal friends.  They do not need to be exceptional at what they do, because they are exceptionally consistent.



A MAVEN is someone who wants to solve other people's problems, generally by solving his own.  A MAVEN may also solve their own problems by solving the problems of others as well.  People drawn to the field of sociology, psychology, counseling, coaching, etc. are often MAVEN'S.



When I asked a CONNECTOR how all of the connections in his life had helped him in the business world, the question seemed to puzzle him.  It wasn't that his connections hadn't helped him - it was that he didn't perceive what he was doing as a "strategy".  It was just something he did, it was who he was.  He simply likes people, in a genuine and powerful way and he finds the patterns of acquaintanceship and interaction in which people arrange themselves to be endlessly fascinating.

With CONNECTORS, "weak ties" are always more important than "strong ties".  Your friends all occupy the same world that you do.  They might work with you, or live hear you, and go to the same churches, schools, or parties.  How much, then, would they know that you wouldn't know?  Your acquaintances, on the other hand, by definition occupy a very different world than you.  They are much more likely to know something that you don't.

CONNECTORS belong to many different worlds.  Unlike most people, they are able to move almost effortlessly through many unrelated social groups because what connects them is not so much bond to the activity or interest as their bond to the people in it.

CONNECTORS see things in people that they don't even see in themselves.  They make people feel good about themselves because they are able to point these things out in a way that makes people feel like winners.  When someone makes us feel like a winner, we automatically appreciate them.  This is not something CONNECTORS work at, it simply part of who they are.  When they look at you, they don't see what you are, they see your potential.  While most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know, and rejecting those who don't fit our tight specifications, CONNECTORS like them all.

CONNECTORS are the type of people that have a disproportionate ability of influence on others.  For example, if they like a restaurant, because they know so many people and the people that they know like them and respect their opinion so much, there will be more people who hear about the restaurant and those they tell it is good will be more likely to eat there.  Word-of-mouth really begins when a CONNECTOR begins to spread the word.


Take a moment to reflect on people you know, personally or those that are famous, that are CONNECTORS.  Princess Dianna comes to mind, as does my classmate Amber Torgersen, whose life and untimely passing prompted me to achieve my own potential so that the impact she surely would have made on the world would not stop.

Do you recognize that it is something within them, not something they work at, that enables them to draw people to them effortlessly?  Doesn't it make sense that simply reading a book or attending a course on self-improvement will not make you into the type of individual they are if it is not part of your core personality?

This doesn't mean that you can't begin to develop traits that will make you more effective in areas they succeed at effortlessly, but it should make you feel more comfortable with the challenge you face without having the benefit of their natural ease.  Don't get discouraged because things are more difficult in some areas for you than someone else.  We weren't all born with the same gifts and talents.  

It may be harder, it may take you longer - but if it really is important to you, you can certainly improve your abilities in any area.  The question to ask is, "Is this truly what I want?  Is the effort required worth the return?"  If it is, then go for it!  If, upon reflection, it doesn't appear to be worth the energy, then focus on what is more meaningful - and stop worrying or complaining what you don't have.  You can have anything you want...you just can't have everything you want.



Like all specialized human traits, some people have much more mastery over this ability than others.  It is an intuitive ability, not one that can simply be mastered by attending a seminar, reading a book, or learning to mirror another person in an effort to make a connection.  Salesmanship at it's worst is creepy, salesmanship by someone intuitively gifted is an experience where one is happy to release their old perspective for a better one, or trade their hard earned money for something they perceive is of higher value than the money they are trading for it.

Expert salesmen create a type of synchrony with others.  We don't want to admit that we can be influenced by those with this ability, but the essence of SALESMEN is that, on some level, they cannot be resisted.  Howard Friedman has developed a test that can measure the ability to send contagious emotion.  

By finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social interactions.

Relying on the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen in our life is the way we deal with the complexity of the modern world.  This is a function of many different factors and changes in our society.  Three significant factors are:  the rise of isolation, particularly among adolescents; the rise of immunity in communication; and the particularly critical role of the Maven in the Modern economy.  To learn more about these factors, read the final chapter of the book.

Ok, so it's not fair that you weren't born with one of the three personality types of significant social power.  You've got a couple of choices:  1)  Focus on developing the one area you have the most affinity for already or 2)  Make use of someone who has the gifts.  If you don't have a friend with the gift, hire someone.  


The Power Of Context

By addressing the small details, you affect the way in which the larger ones occur.  For example, when the graffiti in New York was cleaned up, the crime rate began to diminish.  The context in the environment had changed, and then so did the behavior in the environment.

The same can be true in your own life.  Most people attempt to begin with the details they find most challenging, not realizing that by changing a few small details, the course of their life can be dramatically affected over time.  Small effort focused on the appreciative area can have massive results.  Don't sweat the small stuff?  Well, I suggest you work on the small stuff, but do it in a way that you don't feel consumed by it.  Life is more complicated than we want to think about, but a lot of success can be had by focusing on a few principles.

It's Not As Simple As You Think

In order to make sense of the world around us, we must simplify it.   We simplify our view of the world and others so we can handle the information, we even do it to ourselves.  If we constantly had to qualify every assessment of those around us, how would we make sense of the world?  It is imperative that we do so if we want to be productive, but we must also be able to examine concepts in more depth when necessary.

Who we are changes.  Older siblings are no more likely to be domineering and younger siblings no more likely to be rebellious than anyone else.  We are drawn to the birth order myth because it is easier to define people if we can put them into categories.

Character isn't what we think it is, or rather, what we want it to be.  It isn't a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits, and it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brains are organized.  Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. the reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment.

How we are able to act when we are in control of our environment is significantly different from how we act when we are in an environment that we do not control.  (I believe this is why we are fascinated by reality shows, seeing people in situations that they aren't in control of.  We get to see aspects of the individual "out of control".  Seeing others in positions of discomfort allows us to feel better about ourselves.)

 In a "Good Samaritan" experiment, the greatest predictor of seminary students who stopped to help people in need was the amount of time they perceived they had before their presentation on "Being a good Samaritan".  The participants were highly focused on the principles of being kind and charitable - in fact, that was what their presentation was on, but what determined if they actually stopped and helped the individual in need was the amount of time they perceived they had before they needed to be on stage!

What this study is suggesting, in other words, is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behaviour.  The greater the degree to which you can control your environment, the greater the degree of success you will experience.

An enormous percentage of those who engage in violent acts have some kind of psychiatric disorder or come from deeply disturbed backgrounds.  But there is a difference between being inclined toward violence and actually committing a violent act.  For a crime to be committed, something extra has to happen to tip a troubled person toward violence.


The Rule Of 150

Humans socialize in the largest groups of all primates because we are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that large a social arrangement.  150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.

Expertise Leads to More Expertise

Much like higher degrees where one learns more and more about less and less, in our daily lives we focus more and more on specific areas of interest.  We are only able to handle so much information.  In a groups and families, we use a process of memory sharing.  Most of us remember, at one time, only a fraction of the day-to-day details and histories of our family life.  But we know, implicitly, where to go to find the answers to our questions - whether it is up to our spouse to remember where we put our keys, or our thirteen-year-old to find out how to work the new software for the computer.


Malcolm Gladwell  www.gladwell.com 


I have barely skimmed the surface of the book.  If you would like to learn more:

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