Another masterpiece from the author of Tipping Point and Outliers, ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants’ takes an unconventional view of what strength really means and how underdogs and misfits have won the game for thousands of years. It is also a factual analysis of how David really conquered Goliath. Basically, showing that what we regard as advantages are not always so and vice versa. The book is an international Bestseller (as any Malcolm Gladwell Book) and all the info was distilled in 275 pages.
If you are an ardent reader of Malcolm Gladwell, you would already know his style of writing: heavy with facts. The story of David and Goliath took us back to an ancient time where warriors were either Cavalry (armed men on horsebacks or in chariots), Infantry (foot soldiers wearing armor and carrying swords and shields), or Projectile Warriors (artillery, archers and slingers). David was a slinger and apparently, that was no small skill.
“Irish slingers were said to be able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and in the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a ‘hair’s breadth’. An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards.”
On the other hand, Goliath was a heavy infantry. He was carrying over a hundred pounds of armor and he had a serious medical condition called Acromegaly – a disease caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. The tumor causes an overproduction of human growth hormone and that explains Goliath’s huge size. Another side effect of this disease is vision problem. It is why Goliath was led onto the valley floor.
It is also why Goliath saw two sticks with David when he only held one. “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?” In summary, as historian, Robert Dohrenwend put it, Goliath had as much chance against David as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have had against an opponent armed with a .45 automatic pistol. “All these years, we’ve been telling these kinds of stories wrong.”
It is the advantages of disadvantages — and the disadvantages of what we call advantages. Being wealthy is an advantage most of the time, but you have a higher chance of raising not-so-good children, as research has shown. As a genius kid, you might be better off going to a regular college than an Ivy League one. Losing a parent at an early age or being dyslexic might be a disadvantage generally, but it might be the one thing that guarantees your success. Marvin Eisenstadt, a psychologist carried out a study that showed that “of the 573 eminent people for whom Eisenstadt could find reliable biographical information, a quarter had lost at least one parent before the age of 10” — and 45 percent had lost a parent before the age of 20.
The powerful and strong are not usually what they seem. Giants are not who we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the source of their weaknesses. However, Malcolm Gladwell didn’t hesitate to point out that underdog strategies are hard. In making an inherent weakness a strength, you need to heighten something else so much so that it becomes a stronger advantage. To play by David’s rules, you have to be desperate. You have to be so bad that you have no choice.
Interestingly, this principle has been shown in folklore and children stories since time immemorial. Think of “The Tortoise and The Hare”, “The Elephant and the Mouse” and the likes. In explaining how the black Negroes were able to gain freedom, the author reminds us of the fictional story of Br’er Rabbit. Br’er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, provoking authority figures and bending social mores as he sees fit. It shows an extreme form of survival behavior – how a smaller, weaker, but more clever force can overcome a larger, stronger, but less clever power.
Then again, we all know this. The reason strategies are there in the first place is that we realize the need to plot out unique ways of achieving our goals regardless of the overall weight of unfavourable situations. A central point is that for you to win, you can’t afford to play to the strengths of your rivals. You create your own strength. Most times, your opponents do not see it coming – nobody expects you to take a different approach. Of course, there are the other psychological factors that Malcolm Gladwell explains to be strengths in themselves. Having a near death experience might not be a bad thing after all. This book would help change your perception about tackling challenges using strategies. Nobody is better than you; they’re only better in one way and you can be better in a ton of different ways.
This book was a wonderful read and it is recommended for everybody.
I rate it a 4 out of 5. You can give it your own rating below.
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About the Author
Malcolm Timothy Gladwell CM (born September 3, 1963) is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and speaker. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written five books, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), a collection of his journalism, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). All five books were on The New York Times Best Seller list. He is also the host of the podcast Revisionist History. – Wikipedia