The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2006)

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,

Malcolm Gladwell ($13, link), 2006

(Read 2012, reviewed 2015/2017)

Read this three years ago [five]. Indeed, the first highlight below sums it all up: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context; although unfortunately I can’t exactly recall the specifics of each, because I didn’t highlight enough. But the book overall is about exactly that, why a particular shoe style might exist for three years before it finally becomes “sticky” and popular, hitting a tipping point after which millions of people adopt it. The rules are the same for ideas or memes.

Certainly didn’t highlight a lot (5 pages), perhaps because I read this on my old Kindle keyboard.

The three rules of the Tipping Point—the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, the Power of Context—offer a way of making sense of epidemics. They provide us with direction for how to go about reaching a Tipping Point.



His discussion of connectors, mavens, and salesmen is critical to the concept of the tipping point. If I’m any of these – and I’m not certain I am – I’m a maven or a salesman. But perhaps I’d be happier as a connector? Indeed, writing that in 2015, I realize, now in 2017, my strengths lie in short bursts of incredibly strong social ties, and this may be more of a male/female difference than any personality type actually rooted in biology, which I don’t actually believe in: I love incredibly powerful conversations which help both (or all) people involved grow and shift, I just prefer the majority of my day to take place in solitude, so that I have sufficient time to digest and reflect on such conversations. I think it’s obvious if I embrace this aspect of myself — a “connector,” in Gladwell’s language here — it’ll be far better for both me and the positive changes I want to see in the world.

And he’s got a lot of content, and me, highlights, on what it means to be a connector: the strengths of having large networks of acquaintances.

When [example people] Weisberg looks out at the world or when Roger Horchow sits next to you on an airplane, they don’t see the same world that the rest of us see. They see possibility, and while most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know, and rejecting the people who don’t look right or who live out near the airport, or whom we haven’t seen in sixty five years, Lois and Roger like them all.




Good point about a friend calling Trump’s rise as a “virus” in the system that is the U.S.’ separation of (and the world’s balance of) powers: that long-term, we will all be better off for it, but short-term, this will be painful and harsh for all of us. I could think of it like my plants: plants are often “pruned” of dead or dying leaves by gardeners. But the healthiest of plants let this happen naturally: nutrients are “sucked out” of certain leaves, pulled back into the entire system, and those leaves wither and fall off so that the overall plant is healthier (hence human fasting/food scarcity). So it is with us individually and collectively, although it is certainly a painful process. The two quotes below made me think of this:

The conventional “icons of wealth” — diamonds, gold — are precious because they are rare. And when something scarce becomes plentiful — as oil did in the 1980s and 1990s — it loses value. But the logic of the network is exactly the opposite. Power and value now come from abundance. The more copies you make of your software, the more people you add to your network, the more powerful it becomes.

Wesley realized that if you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.

Indeed, the “accessible” online networks of strong Trump-believers (rather than the groups of Trump “supporters,” who reluctantly voted for him, and those who hated Clinton strongly enough to vote for the “lesser” of two evils) are merely a product of, but not the entire source of, such secrecy. These online networks, user accounts, forums and posts are indicative of the “virus” of negativity, fear, and hatred spreading. But they are not the source: we are.

When we drove across the country I “felt” these invisible social groups of people meeting in private in order to promote a King, not elect a President. The pro-Trump strategy, in the darkness, was despicable, hate-filled, and disgusting, but it worked. It worked, and in the long term, I think it will strengthen both the U.S. as a nation and human civilization overall.

But first, we must expose the darkness to the light. And like Plato’s allegory, that light may initially be blinding to some. Patience.


Posted May 2017.