David and Goliath (Gladwell, 1 of 3)

Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt. -William Shakespeare

I approached the microphone, surprised there wasn’t already a line of people eagerly awaiting their opportunity to interact with Malcolm Gladwell. As I walked towards it, a woman standing next to it asked me if I had a question. I gave her a slight nod, too nervous to look anyone in the eye. At first I thought she was going to fall in line behind me, but then I realized she was one of the organizers. She was just glad someone was actually going to use one of the dedicated question mics. Malcolm Gladwell wasn’t.

Gladwell was picking people out of the audience who would then shout their questions across the room. Good. I’ll have a few minutes to recite my question in my head before I have to ask it. HAVE to ask it. It was almost like some cruel punishment that I had to fumble some words out of my mouth in front of a 575 person lecture hall filled beyond capacity with my smarter-than-the-average-bear Microsoft coworkers. They’re all smart. Smarter than me. Clearly they’ve all already considered my question and dismissed it because it is dumb. It’s too obvious. I pushed the doubt from my mind and began to recite my question. My internal voice was quivering almost as much as the coffee cup in my hand. Have I had too much caffeine already? No, no. This is my first cup of the day. Why am I so nervous? I’ve taught high schoolers. This should be a cakewalk. If I can’t even steady my inner monologue voice, how am I supposed to do this for real? The point Gladwell made earlier in his presentation about struggling students needing equally struggling peers to not feel so stupid and gather the courage to ask questions in class started to hit home.

Gladwell continued to pick people at random from the audience. He didn’t seem to see me standing next to this perfectly good, unused microphone. What if someone else asks my question before me? It’s so obvious, and I don’t have a backup. Should I think of a backup? There’s no time. I need to keep practicing. Finally, the organizer I who spoke to me earlier leaned over to the mic in front of me and informed Gladwell that there was only time for one more question. My stomach turned over a mixture of disappointment and relief that I didn’t get/have to ask my question. Surely Gladwell wasn’t going to pick me. He hadn’t even so much as glanced in my direction the entire session. However, the organizer had his attention, and she pointed at me. Wait, I’m the LAST question?! This better be good. No pressure…


One thought on “David and Goliath (Gladwell, 1 of 3)

  1. Pingback: Tipping Point (Gladwell, 2 of 3) | My Way of the Samurai

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