When disadvantage is turned on its head: David & Goliath

davidWithout a doubt, summer is a great time for the lighter side of reading, including a day at the park or beach with a book by an author such as Dorothea Benton Frank, Nancy Thayer, Jennifer Weiner, Susan Wiggs, and Elin Hilderbrand, but with autumn now in full swing, I found myself craving something with a little more substance to it this month. My pick: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. This captivating read, told conversationally yet rich with thought-provoking stories in typical Gladwell fashion, is about the often surprising ways in which the “weak can defeat the strong, how the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success” (from publisher).

The book opens with the story of David and Goliath, and if you aren’t familiar with this biblical tale, here is the ‘Coles Notes’ version: the Philistine army waged a war against Israel with their star weapon being a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath clad in armor. After 40 days of taunting and terrifying the Israelites, David, a young shepherd, volunteered to fight Goliath. In his simple tunic armed with his shepherd’s staff, no one believed he could defeat the powerful giant. As Goliath approached to attack, David grabbed his sling and a stone and promptly shot it through a hole in his armour, nailing him right in the forehead. After knocking Goliath down, David was able to grab Goliath’s sword and kill him. What’s the moral of the story? Well, according to Gladwell, sometimes what appears to be a disadvantage (ie. David’s small size and lack of battle experience) turns out to be a serious advantage (ie. his ability to strategize in order to get the desired result).

Throughout this fascinating book, Gladwell provides a dozen examples of how various people have overcome the odds to find success. My favourite is the story of David Boies, one of the most famous trial lawyers with dyslexia who was able to succeed at litigation because of his keen listening skills. As Gladwell writes, “he may not have been a reader, but the things he was forced to do because he could not read well turned out to be even more valuable (p. 109-110).”

So whether you’ve ever read a Gladwell book or not, this one may be worth your time this weekend! Otherwise, check out this list of other interesting tale about success and adversity:

upsideThe up side of down : why failing well is the key to success

superSupersurvivors : the surprising link between suffering and success

Spartan up! : a take-no-prisoners guide to overcoming obstacles and achieving peak performance in life

obstaclespartanThe obstacle is the way : the timeless art of turing trials into triumph

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