Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, ‘David and Goliath‘ is subtitled: ‘Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.’
That certainly appealed to this underdog, who’s been battling global holding companies for nearly two decades.
Gladwell’s gift is his ability to look at old, or conventional, subjects in new, and counterintuitive ways.
He argues that you CAN fight city hall if you stop thinking of ‘The Man’ in the same, old way. Size can be just as big a disadvantage as an advantage, says Gladwell. You just have to uncover the giant’s weaknesses.
According to Gladwell, who cites countless biblical scholars and historians, David was anything but a tiny, shepherd boy. Instead, he was a well-trained slinger.
In ancient times, armies featured squads of cavalry, foot soldiers and slingers. The latter were the equivalent of latter-day archers or sharpshooters.
On the day of the epic battle, Goliath was wearing nearly 100 pounds of armor, carrying three separate weapons AND suffering from acromegaly, a disease caused by a benign tumor of pituitary gland (which, says, Gladwell, explains Goliath’s extraordinary size).
The tumor severely limited the giant’s vision. So, when the fleet, unencumbered David sprinted onto the battlefield, he had the advantages of sight, speed and surprise. When he let loose his sling, it propelled a small rock that struck Goliath in the forehead at the speed of 138 mph! The giant was killed instantly.
David won because he didn’t buy into his fellow Israelites fear of the bigger, stronger Goliath.
T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) was a latter-day David. Lawrence led a group of Bedouin nomads in a major upset of a large, entrenched force of Turkish soldiers at Akaba. He did so because he embraced the unexpected.
Conventional wisdom held that Akaba, a port city, could only be attacked by sea. It was surrounded on three other sides by hundreds of miles of hot, inhospitable desert sand. That didn’t deter Lawrence, though. He not only led his small force through the desert, he completely surprised the napping Turks and suffered only two losses.
Neither David nor Lawrence made the mistake of assuming greater size meant greater strength.
Lest you think this is a book solely about military history, Gladwell also describes how a small, amateur team of suburban white girls consistently beat urban squads of larger, urban girls who’d been playing hoops for years, and eventually went to the national junior championship.
There are also chapters on class size, and our misconception that a smaller class means a better learning experience. It doesn’t. And, there are truly inspirational stories of successful people who overcame such seemingly insurmountable challenges as coping with a disability, losing a parent or graduating from an ‘inferior’ school.
David and Goliath has armed me with a whole, new way in which to think about the giants in my industry. As Gladwell would say, their seeming advantages CAN be used against them. But, it will take a David or a Lawrence who possess the ability to think in unconventional ways to unseat the Edelmans, Webers and Fleishmans of the PR world.
I highly recommend Gladwell’s book. It’ll resonate with anyone battling any type of Goliath. If nothing else, Gladwell will open your mind to new and different ways of thinking. And that, dear reader, is priceless.