David and Goliath is the biblical story of a young man who is able to defeat an awe inspiring warrior in single combat despite seemingly having no chance, it’s the story of the greatest upset of all time.
Or is it?
That’s the question that Malcolm Gladwell raises in his most recent book, titled David and Goliath. Similar to the rest of his books, Gladwell uses psychological research and anecdotal stories to explain exactly what happened with many upsets throughout history.
This book is very similar to Gladwell’s other books in that it will force you to change the way that you think about some things. The basic premise of this book is about underdogs and how they can defeat those who are greatly favored above them, but overall I’d say that the central point of the book is how many times what we think of as advantages can often be disadvantages, and vice versa.
Starting with the titular story, look at the battle of David vs Goliath. In the story, Goliath is described as a huge man who is heavily clad in armor and carrying multiple heavy weapons. In comparison, David is a young boy wearing very light clothing who is going to fight Goliath with a sling. Obviously Goliath should be favored, except he shouldn’t be.
Gladwell discusses what a sling actually was in biblical times, it was a weapon used to fire a rock at another person from a distance, and according to some modern day research, a person well trained and accustomed to using a sling as a weapon can be deadly accurate from from a range of up to 200 yards.
So in the battle, you have a slow, but very powerful close range fighter, and an attacker who has less defense, but more maneuverability and a greater range. Goliath was expecting a fighter similar to him to fight, but instead he was up against a ranged attacker that he had no chance of beating, because he was dead before David was anywhere near close enough to strike him.
This book is entirely about changing the way you look at the world, how can an underdog beat a goliath? By playing a different game. There are always ways in life to turn a disadvantage to an advantage, and if you take the time to carefully analyze the situation, you’ll see ways it could be done.
I enjoyed the book, but I don’t think that it’s Gladwell’s best effort (The Tipping Point is probably still his best book). All of the ideas were solid and backed up with research (that he cites all of, so if you wanted to you could easily follow his steps and check up on anything you don’t agree with), and he shows a variety of different examples to make his point. My biggest qualm with the book is that to me the last section didn’t tie in very well with the first two. It was still interesting, and definitely worth reading, but it felt a little out of place for me.
Another solid book by Gladwell that really makes you analyze some things that we take for granted every day.