by Deana Chadwell 11/19/13
I just finished a fascinating book – Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. It was hard to put down; even the footnotes were interesting and I quickly realized that I didn’t want to skip them. The title is a little misleading in and of itself; it needs the subtitle, Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.
Gladwell does spend the intro discussing the famous Israeli/Philistine battle and I learned a great deal because he talked about the event from the perspective of military tactics. His thesis is not about David’s spiritual maturity vs. evil, but about David’s correct assessment of the military situation and his confidence in breaking battle tradition in his method of attack. I learned a lot about Goliath, too – the poor man didn’t have a chance.
The rest of the book discusses case history after case history – all of them enthralling – and each, in its own way, illustrating Gladwell’s point – the perceived advantages are not necessarily advantages, and vise versa. He covers famous folks – Martin Luther King Jr. – but mainly behind-the-scenes people – the man who propelled medicine into a cure for childhood leukemia, — a lawyer, a banker, a girls’ basketball coach, people who survived the Blitz. His examples are random, so I never had any idea what was ahead, except that I knew the story would be well told and well worth knowing about.
He elaborated on his thesis exploring differing kinds of “advantages” – everything from Ivy League schools or small classrooms to looking at the gritty moral choices needed to become a winner. Whatever facets of his thesis he explores, he presents a fresh new perspective. The closing of his introductory remarks on the famous biblical story says it all,
What the Israelites saw, from high on the ridge, was an intimidating giant. In reality, the very thing that gave the giant his size was also the source of his greatest weakness. There is an important lesson in that for battles with all kinds of giants. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.
David came running toward Goliath, powered by courage and faith. Goliath was blind to his approach – and then he was down, too big and slow and blurry-eyed to comprehend the way the tables had been turned. All these years, we’ve been telling these kinds of stories wrong. David and Goliath is about getting them right.
Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.