|'I'm comfortable with silence.'|
Photograph by Mike McGrego
Malcolm Gladwell: ‘No one thinks of me as a potential terrorist any more’
The writer, 50, on board games, being pulled over at immigration and why he prefers a selfie
Saturday 26 July 2014 14.00 BST
I have a happy name. Glad. Well. It couldn’t be more cheery and uplifting. This is not a trivial thing; it’s possibly my parents’ greatest contribution to my wellbeing. And Malcolm seems substantial: it’s not a fly-by-night, suspicious name. It’s sturdy, forthright.
If I’m recognised, I much prefer the selfie. Otherwise you have to recruit a third party, who then has to line it up and can’t work the phone. The whole thing lasts forever. Selfies is “Boom!” You’re done.
The famous basketball coach John Wooden used to always say: “Be quick but don’t hurry.” Which is perfect writing advice.
I’m comfortable with silence. My happiest memories as a child were going for walks with my father and saying nothing. I almost never felt closer to him.
When my hair was long I was pulled over at immigration all the time. This was after 9/11, when America was in a heightened state of paranoia, and they assumed that straggly hair and a desire to bomb the United States went hand in hand. Now I’m too old to be pulled aside: I’ve moved into the innocuousness of middle age, so no one thinks of me as a potential terrorist any more.
Gladwells don’t have tempers. I can’t remember a time any of us raised our voice. We’re not a high-strung people.
I learned more about the world from playing board games than anything else. One summer I played 105 games of Monopoly in two months. We played Risk games that would take 15 hours. What you realise is that it’s nothing to do with what happens on the board. It’s everything to do with your relationships with the people you’re playing. That’s a really hard lesson to learn as a child.
Luck is not satisfying narratively. You can make a very plausible case that a huge amount of investing prowess is simple luck. But it’s much more satisfying to say Warren Buffett is possessed of special genius than to consider the possibility that he’s merely the luckiest investor of the last 100 years.
You have to take your hat off to Lance Armstrong. Even if you think he’s a jerk, he did it better than anybody else.
I don’t know why people think attention spans are getting shorter.Thirty years ago, you could go and get a sandwich in the middle of a Kojakepisode, come back and still follow it. Today, if you get a glass of water in the middle of Homeland you have to pause and go back.
Running teaches you about the inherent unfairness of the world. Two people can work exactly the same, in fact, one can be infinitely more devoted and train much harder and not do as well. An object lesson in how unfair life is.
The biggest mistake we make is trying to square the way we feel about something today with the way we felt about it yesterday. You shouldn’t even bother doing it. You should just figure out the way you feel today and if it happens to comply with what you thought before, fine. If it contradicts it, whatever. Life goes on.
David and Goliath (Penguin, £8.99) by Malcolm Gladwell is out now.