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Book Recap Series: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

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These book recap series posts are simply my way of jotting down important takeaways from the book.

The books I have decided to focus on are topics that are of interest to me including personal finance, wealth building, business management, leadership, investing, and real estate. If you have business book recommendations, reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram @omgmymoney or contact me.

You can see the list of the book recap series at the bottom of this post. Check the business book recommendations section for a list of all the books.

Pre Introduction

  • The tipping point is the biography of an idea. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do. The basic underlying patterns are contagious behavior, little changes having big effects, and change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment.
  • The name given to that one dramatic moment when everything can change all at once is the tipping point.
  • The tipping point is the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.

Chapter 1 – The three rules of epidemics


  • It takes only the smallest of changes to shatter an epidemic’s equilibrium.
  • There’s more than one way to tip an epidemic.
  • Epidemics are a function of the people who transmit infectious agents. The infectious agent itself and the environment in which the infectious agent is operating and when an epidemic tips, it tips because something has happened, some change has occurred.
  • In a given process or system, some people matter more than others. The 80/20 principle, which is the idea that in any situation, roughly 80% of the work will be done by 20% of the participants. When it comes to epidemics, a tiny percentage of people do the majority of the work.
  • The idea of the importance of stickiness in tipping has enormous implications for the way we regard social epidemics. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how to make messages more contagious, how to reach as many people as possible with our products or ideas, but the hard part of communication is often figuring out how to make sure a message doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. Stickiness means that a message makes impact, you can’t get it out of your head.
  • When people are in a group, responsibility for acting is defused. They assume someone else will make the call or they assume because no one else is acting, the apparent problem isn’t really a problem. [OMG My Money commentary] I think we experience this all too often especially in emergency situations. Rather than sticking out and being that person to raise their hand, we usually hope that others step forward.
  • The key to getting people to change their behavior sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation.
  • 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 with how to go about reaching a tipping point.

Chapter 2 – The law of the few

  • Word of mouth is still the most important form of human communication. [OMG My Money commentary] I personally rely on word of mouth whether it is literally someone recommending me something or I am reading reviews. As you start your own side hustles, relying on word of mouth becomes one of, if not, the most cost efficient way of marketing.
  • The success of any social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.
  • Proximity overpowers similarity. We’re friends with the people we do things with as much as we are with the people we resemble. We don’t seek out friends. We associate with the people who occupy the same small physical spaces as we do. [OMG My Money commentary] this is one of the reasons why companies like Cutco, which I have experienced in person, always tells you to start with family and friends and then to follow up and ask those family and friends to make 5-10 recommendations so you have an immediate connection to that person.
  • In the six degrees of separation, not all degrees are equal. Six degrees of separation doesn’t mean everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps.
  • 1st kinds of people who control word of mouth epidemics: Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. They are important for the kinds of people they know. By having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.
  • The strength of weak ties – acquaintances represent a source of social power and the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are.
  • 2nd kinds of people who control word of mouth epidemics: mavens accumulate knowledge. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests. They like to be helpers in the marketplace. They are more socially motivated. A maven is not a persuader.
  • In a social epidemic, mavens are data banks; they provide the message. Connectors are social glue; they spread it. Persuaders have the skill to persuade us when we’re unconvinced of what we’re hearing.
  • Clues to what makes a persuader so effective.
    • Little things can make as much of a difference as big things. A little bias can go a long way.
    • Non verbal cues are as or more important than verbal cues. The subtle circumstances surrounding how we say things may matter more than what we say. Simple physical movements and observations can have a profound effect on how we feel and think.
    • Persuasion often works in ways we do not appreciate. Part of what it means to have a powerful or persuasive personality is that you can draw others into your own rhythms and dictate the terms of the interaction.
    • We imitate each other’s emotion as a way of expressing support and caring and as a way of communicating with each other. Emotion is contagious.

Chapter 3 – The stickiness factor

  • The law of the few says that one critical factor in epidemics is in the nature of the messenger.
  • In epidemics the messenger matters. Messengers are what make something spread, but the content of the message matters too. The specific quality that a message needs to be successful is the quality of stickiness.
  • The line between hostility and acceptance, between an epidemic that tips and one that does not, is sometimes a lot narrower than it seems.
  • The law of the few says there are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them. The lesson of stickiness is the same.
  • There is a simple way to package information that under the right circumstances can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find them.

Chapter 4 – The power of context part 1

  • The law of the few looked at the kinds of people critical in spreading information. Stickiness suggests in order to be capable of sparking epidemics, ideas have to be memorable and move us to action. The lesson of the power of context is that we are more than just sensitive to changes in context, we’re exquisitely sensitive to them.
  • Broken windows theory – crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken and a sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street in which it faces. Invitation to more serious crimes. Minor, seemingly insignificant quality of life crimes were tipping points for violent crimes.
  • An epidemic can be reversed, can be tipped by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment.
  • When it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context.
  • The convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important in the end in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior.

Chapter 5 – The power of context part 2, the magic number 150

  • Once we’re part of a group, we’re all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any number of other kinds of influence that can play a critical role in sweeping us up in the beginnings of an epidemic.
  • Small close knit groups have the power to magnify the epidemic potential of a message or idea.
  • The rule of 150 – maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuine, social relationship. The kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us. [OMG My Money commentary] I am pretty sure we have seen this statistic when it comes to how many Facebook connections is ideal or manageable.
  • In order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.

Chapter 6 – Case study: rumors, sneakers, and the power of translation

  • What mavens and connectors and salesmen do to an idea in order to make it contagious is to alter it in such a way that extraneous details are dropped and others are exaggerated so that the message itself comes to acquire a deeper meaning.

Chapter 7 – Case study: suicide, smoking, and the search for the unsticky cigarette

  • Contagiousness is a function of the messenger. Stickiness is primarily a property of the message.

Chapter 8 – Conclusion: focus, test, and beleiv

  • Starting epidemic requires concentrating resources on a few key areas. The law of the few says that connectors, mavens, and salesmen are responsible for starting word of mouth epidemics, which means that if you are interested in starting a word of mouth epidemic, your resources ought to solely concentrate on those three groups. No one else matters.
  • Band aid solution should not be considered a term of disparagement. The band aid is an inexpensive, convenient, and remarkably versatile solution to an astonishing array of problems. [OMG My Money commentary] I absolutely love this and started to reiterate this to my team given a specific context because not all band aid solutions should be taken seriously. I have not once in my working career ever heard anyone at my company (now or in the past) refer to a band aid solution in a positive way.
  • Band aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with a minimum amount of effort and time and cost. [OMG My Money commentary] whenever I hear someone mention band aid solution in a negative tone, I first try to understand the context, root cause for the problem, and then where this band aid solution fits. In the majority of times, the band aid solution was truly the right solution when taking into account the amount of effort, time, resources, and money.
  • Those who are successful at creating social epidemics do not just do what they think is right, they deliberately test their intuitions.
  • Tipping points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action.

You can check out the entire business book recap series below:

  1. The Richest Man in Babylon book recap – George S. Clason
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People book recap – Dale Carnegie
  3. Think and Grow Rich book recap – Napoleon Hill
  4. The Tipping Point book recap – Malcolm Gladwell

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