Rethinking Gladwell’s Tipping Point


 The Call to Positive Action

 Malcolm Gladwell, author of David and Goliath, earlier wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In the language of Einstein’s atomic physics, it’s called critical mass. In the world of ideas, it’s the trigger point of a paradigm shift. Gladwell describes it as magic:

 The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. . . A precisely targeted push can cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

His book identifies the catalysts which precipitate a tipping point. Psychological studies are analyzed to name the key elements of social change. At the right time, a handful of people with the right idea and the right messaging can make huge waves. With three key ingredients in place, what seems to happen spontaneously, almost mysteriously, can be deliberately replicated.

Three special kinds of people are necessary to precipitate a paradigm shift. Gladwell profiles the personality types whose combined effort makes the difference. He calls them mavens, salesmen, and connectors.

Mavens are the experts who know their subject in-depth and in great detail. They delight in sharing their knowledge to help others. They have no agenda other than to be of service, so people trust their information. In this case, the information being shared is the perennial philosophy embodied in the Positive Paradigm. It radiates from the center of the wheel.

Salesmen have a knack for tapping into what the public wants. They’re keenly perceptive about human nature and are therefore persuasive in getting others to buy what they have for sale. Salesmen are in touch with the middle level of the wheel. They connect with human motivations to energize basic hopes (namely, for survival) and fears (of extinction).

Connectors take joy in building extended networks of acquaintances. They’re the matchmakers who introduce friends to other friends. They’re the doers who spin the wheel round at the surface of the rim. In this case, they have the ability to spread the Positive Paradigm message worldwide to everyone with the common sense to hear.

Put these three special kinds of people together and there’s magic in the making. The levels of creation can be linked and unified. A powerful idea presented persuasively to the public and carried around the globe by word-of-mouth can travel faster than a speeding bullet.

Rethinking Survival is the work of a maven. I’ve spent a lifetime refining these ideas. I’ve worked hard to express them in a simple, clear and hopefully entertaining way. I take delight in the possible good that could come from sharing them.

But, true to life, there’s always a down side. The lifestyle optimal for writing such a book disqualifies me from wearing the hats of a connector or a salesman. My strength in one context is a weakness in another. I’m a deeply private person. Knowing my limitations, I’m calling on the strengths of my readers to balance out my weak spots. I’m not independently wealthy. (Joke!) I have no support network of family, friends, agents and publicists. I need you to ACT as salesmen and connectors on behalf of the Positive Paradigm. Together, we can work miracles.

What Gladwell describes in terms of psychological studies also expressed in Chinese philosophy. Here’s the tipping point idea from Lao Tze’s perspective:

Passage 78

 Nothing under heaven is as soft,

receptive or pliant as water;

but when amassed,

nothing withstands

its tidal wave impact.

 As water penetrates and dissolves the hard,

erodes and absorbs the rigid,

those who yield and encompass their foes

prevail long after evil doers

have disappeared.

Like water, the sage absorbs the world’s suffering,

endures its hardships,

and responsive to the times,

becomes the catalyst

of collective action.

So it is that the low and high trade places,

and the forceful lose their influence;

this is known by many,

but practiced by few.

 This passage applies to promoting the Positive Paradigm idea in the following way. A solitary writer is like a single drop of water in the ocean. But an idea whose time has come, when spread by word-of-mouth and owned by the masses, can take on the force of a social tsunami.

I have no political clout or social standing. But I’ve allowed nothing to discourage me in my determination to be a catalyst of collective positive action. I’ve experienced my share of hardships. I identify with the world’s suffering. So I trust that, having done my best, it will be enough.

This book will survive by surfing the tidal waves of Titanic times. Because there is a mighty zeitgeist stirring the air. Its force is obliging everyone on the planet to make critical choices. Its power is driving us to take action.

It’s a question of which worldview will prevail. Everyone must choose. (Failing to choose consciously is also a choice.)

Do we cling to dysfunctional paradigms that have brought us to the brink of Titanic disaster? Or do we opt for Einstein’s new way of thinking? Do we choose to be, or not to be? To survive or perish from the face of the earth, that is the question.

So if you’re ready and willing to tip the balance in favor of human survival, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. SPREAD THE WORD. Urge everyone you know who stands to benefit from Rethinking Survival to read it and then act on it. Do so with passionate conviction. Now! Fill the all-important roles of salesmen and connectors.

And may the Force be with you and your friends, Now and into the New Year!



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