David and Goliath

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell exposes strengths as weaknesses and weaknesses as strengths. In his ever enjoyable writing style, Gladwell takes the reader on a journey through Ireland, New York City, Maryland, and of course Palestine. Using distinctive case studies to guide each chapter the book never ceases to amuse and amaze!

Let us get started right away with the title, the story of David and Goliath. It has been told as an inspirational story for the underdog to achieve victory and take down the giant. David was much smaller than Goliath. He had no armour, Goliath, on the other hand, was covered almost from tip to toe. And David had only a few rocks in a pouch as opposed to Goliath who not only had a sword but also had a spear at hand. You are now probably asking: How in the world did David win? It is because his perceived weaknesses were actually strengths.

Gladwell states that in ancient times there were three ‘classes’ in the armies of those times. They balanced like rock-paper-scissors. And as you may have guessed, David was to Goliath as paper is to rock. Had had no armour and was therefore more agile. He had no sword but could throw his rocks with the precision of a very experienced archer. And this is what decided the battle. Even before Goliath could really identify David, he was struck to the head with the bag of stones. And when he fell to the ground, David used his own sword against him to end the battle and claim victory.

The key message is that seemingly advantageous characteristics can in some (or many) cases be a disadvantage. It is only when the underdog is aware that the normal tactics will not work, he can flip the battle to his advantage by adopting another strategy. Some more recent examples of this have been found when armies outnumbered and outgunned by 10 to 1 have won wars by adapting to the situation and fighting in unconventional ways. In congruence with the third part of the book, it can be stated that there are limits to power.

Next, to the story of David and Goliath, there are many more. Some are concerned with the battles between larger groups of people, whilst some are concerned with the individual. The second part of the book is dedicated to the desirable difficulty, the paradox of the power that overcoming of difficulties can bring with it. The book is as superb as any other book by Malcolm Gladwell. It highlights information that has been around for long, but not yet studied to the extent it has been now. For it will take the average reader only one or two afternoons to finish this book, it should be the next on your list!

More on David and Goliath:

http://test.floriswolswijk.com/psychology-the-tipping-point-book-review/ – Review of The Tipping Point

http://test.floriswolswijk.com/psychology-dog-saw-book-review/ – Review of What the Dog Saw

http://gladwell.com/ – Gladwell’s site

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131007120010-69244073-what-makes-malcolm-gladwell-fascinating – More on Gladwell