Malcolm (& his story) In The Middle

This past Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to hear the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, speak at a local theatre.  Gladwell is a man of charm, wit, and extraordinary intuition regarding social systems and cultural clues.

The main emphasis of his talk was not the annoyance of when incompetent people fail, but the terror of when overconfident people fail.  The basic idea was that incompetent people tend to be in positions that are inconsequential, thereby creating less of an impact on the world around them when mistakes are made.  However, overconfident people tend to be competent and skilled, making their way to powerful heights, usually morphing into a person of overconfidence and blinding pride.  It is when these individuals think they can do no wrong that they can make a disastrous mistake, sending tremors of pain and chaos to all those around them (i.e. Wall Street’s latest debacle or the Iraq War).

As I appreciated Gladwell’s interesting take on the significant failures of our day (& those who caused them), I valued most the way in which his presentation was engaging and effortless to listen to.  His key? Story!

The essence to Gladwell’s powerful presentation was his ability to take a Civil War story of the past, and weave it in and out of his presentation as the  main illustration to his premise.

As Christians we have so many good things to say to the world, but we so desperately feel the need to say them within the framework of proposition, linear points, and a list of facts.

In Barry Lopez’s book, Crow and Weasel, he says:

The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them.  If stories come to you, care for them.  And learn to give them away where they are needed.  Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.  That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory.  This is how people care for themselves (48).

May we carefully package the “greatest story” around the real, engaging, and practical stories of our day to better care for our people and the message.


~ by Dave Smith on November 13, 2009.

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