Title : David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
Author : Malcolm Gladwell
Year of Publication: 2013
Publisher : Little, Brown and Company
At its core, I believe this is a book on strategy. I took a course on strategic thinking and planning during my masters program. Our tutor during this program taught us numerous strategies and I have applied some of them with relative success. Out of the many strategies he taught us, one seemed implausible till I read this book. It was his strategy on handling bullies. It was simply to call them out but to make sure there was an audience. Also, make sure you use the word “bully” in your confrontation. For example, one could shout “why are you bulling me? or, You are just a bully”. I remember my classmates and I laughing at this strategy. It seemed like a strategy that guaranteed further ass-whooping until I realized Dr Martin Luther King Jr utilized a variation of this strategy during the civil right movement.
In this book, Gladwell explained how Dr Martin Luther King Jr understood the need for a villain and public perception towards the success of the civil rights movement. Narratives of how people and cultures have overcome challenges through strategic means are numerous in this book. Perhaps the most important story and bedrock of this book is the story of David and Goliath as discuss by Gladwell himself in the TED talk below.
Lessons from David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Potential weaknesses can be strengths. Gladwell points out in this book how challenges such as dyslexia maybe an hindrance to a child’s ability to perform in today’s academic structure. Such short coming could lead to adopting useful life skills like cramming, ability to read people better, being comfortable with the possibility of failure and the ability to take more risks. Those that have managed to work around it tend to outperform their pairs. Gladwell goes on to quote a research that concludes that about a third of all successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Example of such successful dyslectics include Sir Richard Branson , Henry Ford, David Boies and Steve Jobs among others.
There are times where it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fish in a big pond. Gladwell made this point in the book by highlighting the strengths and challenges between ivy colleges and less prestigious university colleges. He also used the example of how impressionists artists in 1873 challenged the status quo. The status quo (aka. big pond) can be challenging for individuals to the extend that it kills innovation and individuality. Small ponds on the other hand, tend to encourage individuality and rich in support systems for striving individuals. In small ponds, you do not get lost in the crowd because there isn’t a crowd.
Another core lesson from this book is that for some people, early life tragedy can be advantageous. He went on to cite Marvin Eisenstadt, a psychologist who did studies showing 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. This list includes twelve past presidents of the United States ; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all lost their fathers while they were young.
Hustle!!! In the stories narrated in this book, one begins to realize how underdogs supplement their obvious disadvantages with hard work. He made this point using the full-court press strategy adopted by less skilled basketball teams to beat obviously better teams.
In conclusion, although it is not written like your typical textbook, David and Goliath is an intellectual book. It is rich in the advantages in disadvantages and vice versa. David and Goliath is a book worth reading for everyone.Cheers