Gladwell is the first to admit that these success stories are irreproducible. The vast majority of people are crushed by adversity, but a few special ones rise up and become better, tougher, more fearless, and more resilient. Who can argue with that? In the end the ideas are not so subversive, so revolutionary, so earth-shaking --- perhaps because Gladwell himself had a very normal and happy childhood. Just because a selected or gifted few become better through pain and suffering, doesn't mean the vast majority are not crushed.
Still it makes me feel a little bit good. Even if most of the messages in any Gladwell book cannot be adopted in life, they tickle my brain like bubbly drink with a hint of sweetness. Actually there is at least one usable message in the book --- If the rules of the game are stacked against you, don't play by the rules. Change the game. This sounds suspiciously like the quote from Mad Men: "If you don't like what they say, change the conversation." In politics as in advertising, this is an old trick in psychology known as "framing." Basically, reality is neither good nor bad, the only difference is in one's psychological framing, and any frame can be reframed. This is basically what Gladwell does so well --- he changes the frame all the time until your brain is tingling all over.