Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”


When I decided to learn to groom dogs, I just wanted to work with dogs.  I wanted to make them look good, but in the beginning, it was just being with dogs.

I come from a family of visual artists, so having those genetics and their  role modeling helped me develop my eye for art, and thus what a dog should look like.  Gradually—very gradually, by asking questions, reading breed standards, and watching experienced dog groomers groom dogs, I learned not only how to make a dog look good, but why what I was doing was making a dog look good.

Of course, I am more interested in some  dog breeds than others.  I evolved to be a sighthound person, but because I had a  good friend who bought a French Bulldog to show over 40 years ago, I learned about Frenchies and the other bracheocephalics.

And so, it came to pass, that I can look at most dogs  (I am not a sporting breed person,  but I am very confident about terriers, toy breeds, and sighthounds) and see  immediately whether it is well bred or the result of someone breeding pets for profit.

I sometimes guess wrong.  Sometimes great dogs  throw something with a coat pattern, head, or front that you wonder where it came from.   Genetics is like that…but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about the pet dog that could have been a show dog, except the breeder could not find a show home for the dog.  I have a friend who raises Miniature Schnauzers (Dale Miller…Barclay Square) who often sells show dogs as pets. She raises some very good dogs.

I am also a pretty good judge of dog behavior.  I asked my brother, a veterinary school graduate, to help me with a dog, and he asked me, “How do you know that dog’s not going to bite you?”  & I told him, “I can read his body language.”

He replied—and I am NOT joking, “Oh, they don’t teach us that in veterinary school.”

Most of the examples Gladwell writes about are what we know visually.  His first example in the book is about a statue that the Getty Museum bought…a kouros.  It was a rare statue, rarely  to come on the market, and the museum asked some expert in geology evaluate the statue.  Because it was of a stone that the  other known kouros were made of, they bought the statue after 14 months of evaluations…but  art experts who  later  saw the statue told the Getty that the museum had been defrauded.   Gladwell goes into some detail about what the art experts didn’t like about the statue.  We learn that the wealthy museum trusted the wrong expert.  This is how  the book begins.  Gladwell talks to other people:  psychologists, sales people, mainly people who strategize in some way, and he learns how they make what we generally think of as snap decisions.  But they are not  snap decisions, really. The decisions are based on hundreds if not thousands of experiences people had, many made when people took a longer time to evaluate an item or interaction.  The gist is:  don’t second guess yourself.

Now, suppose you never have a gut feeling about anything. This is  a great book, because Gladwell  explains how  the people he interviewed learned what they learned.  You are not going to be an expert or specialist unless you are genuinely interested in the subtleties and nuances of how things are.

The book was published in 2005.  I am sure it will become a classic.

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