I’m really impressed by how Malcolm Gladwell uses unique entry points to tell stories on his podcast series Revisionist History.
“Carlos Doesn’t Remember” starts off as a story about a child gifted with intelligence that lives in a crappy LA neighborhood, but turns into a lesson on how some of America’s smartest kids will never get an opportunity to realize their potential, because they’re impoverished and don’t have an advocate or solid service fighter for them.
“Food Fight” starts as a piece about cafeteria food and universities, then becomes a well-done exposé on how, typically, a college with 5-star cafeteria and fancy dorms likely is syphoning funds from the school that could be better used to help enroll students that need financial aid (though Bowdoin College doesn’t much like how they were represented).
“The Big Man Can’t Shoot” begins as a story about notoriously abysmal NBA free throw shooters, then whirls into a lesson on how those that care the most about how they’re perceived by others (“Am I cool?” “Do people like me?” “Am I the only person doing this?”) limits their willingness to be their best selves. Wilt Chamberlain shot free throws underhanded (“grandma style”) for one season and it was an immense help, resulting in his best year percentage-wise from the line. And then the next season, it plummeted back to the horrendous percentage of yore because he decide that he’d rather shoot overhead, be “cool” and miss than underhand, be “uncool” and make. Amazing.
Just today, I listened to him talk about a pastor that was dumped by his church because his son is gay and an acclaimed university that has a building named after a racist U.S. president. But the message within those stories is that communicating thoughtfully and tactfully lends itself to achieving the change you’d like to see in people that are in the wrong. It’s so good.
When my dad is telling lengthy, long-winded stories—as entertaining as they often are—my mom often says, “Land the plane!” She means, “Get to the point.” But as I’ve learned, if you stick around for whatever he’s talking about, everything will make sense in the end and there will be numerous gems and lessons to pull from. The journey/story is worth it. Revisionist History reminds me of that.
So this is me endorsing Revisionist History. Enjoy.