David and Goliath Book Summary

The underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants

David and Goliath is the 3rd book I read in 2020. I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell, so this blog could be biased. Like his every other book, Malcolm questions the obvious. Be it Outliers, Talking to strangers, or David and Goliath, he makes us look at the world the way we would have never thought of before.

What I liked about this book?

From the time I got the book, to writing this summary, I thought the title of the book was David vs. Goliath. When I realized it was David and Goliath, it put a lot of things in perspective. It was never about the fight. It was not even about the battle. It was about how we all have our strengths and weaknesses and how we can use them to our advantage to get our way through this world. Of course, in sports, someone has to lose so that someone has to win, but in life?

Big Takeaways

Went too philosophical there, didn't I?

Unlike the first two books I read Atomic habits and 7 habits of highly effective people, this book is not a self-help book, not a practical guide that would change your life. It is a book filled with case studies to prove that our conventional ideas can be questioned and proved wrong.

Question the Conventional Wisdom

For those of you who don't know the David and Goliath story, Goliath the mighty warrior challenges the opponent army to fight on single combat. He asked them to send one of their mightiest warriors. No one came had the guts to face Goliath given his threatening figure and armor, except for David the shepherd boy.

David refuses to use any of the weapons offered by his army. He resided to use his slingshot. As David ran towards Goliath, the overconfident Goliath calls out saying "“Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?”". Despite all that, David shoots a pebble at the giant's head to make him fall dead.

Conventional wisdom dictates that courage alone is enough to fight and defeat the giants of this world. The book begins by questioning that takeaway of that story.

  • Was Goliath as mighty as he looked?

  • Was it just the courage that made David come forward?

  • How could a stone in a slingshot make a person drop dead?

On asking these questions, the missing pieces of the story come to light.

Was Goliath as mighty as he looked?

Goliath is not as mighty as he looked, He was giant because he had growth hormone issues. During the battle, he asks the opponent to come to him conventional wisdom might tell you that it is an expression of power. In reality, he couldn't move because of the heavy armor. When David approached Goliath with the slingshot, he thought it was a stick. Either he is overconfident, or He has eye problems due to his hormonal imbalance.

Was it just the courage that made David come forward?

Maybe David looked beyond Goliath's demeanor. On looking at Goliath covered in his armor, perhaps he got reminded of the Dartboard he was using to practice slingshots during his free time.

How could a stone in a slingshot make a person drop dead?

David didn't just sling the shot, he was running towards Goliath while spinning the sling. He made sure the stone had enough exit velocity to make the giant fall, his weight took care of the dropping dead part.

When history presents itself don't run with it. Look at it from the perspectives others have missed. That's the theory every Malcolm Gladwell's book brings to light.

Disadvantage in Advantages

On the first look, everyone against Goliath might look like they are at a disadvantage until David looked past it. With this body, covered with armor, mighty sword all could have looked like an advantage, but in reality, those were the reasons behind Goliath's defeat.

Here is another example, Even the brightest students feel like they are not good enough after joining a prestigious institution. What should have played as an advantage, being around the best students, teachers, access to the best resources should have worked as to their advantage instead in most cases it hits their confidence, makes them question their intellect. That's how a high school academic ends up being a college drop out.

Advantage In Disadvantages

What conventional wisdom calls a disadvantage often plays out as an advantage. Don't you think? We all know that blind people have high sensory capabilities than non-blind. I defer to call them normal because there is no normal. Everyone has their advantages and disadvantages.

The book states that dyslexics have the advantage of winning over people as they develop coping mechanisms to get along with others. From arguing their way around at school to get better grades to becoming a lawyer.

Play your Game

The third idea is all about playing by your strengths even when it looked stupid. One look at David people would have laughed at him, called him foolish, but none of that stopped him. He knew what his strengths are. He didn't opt to use any weapons offered by the army.

He knew what he was good at. He knew what the end goal was. He played by his strengths and won the battle.

When a situation presents itself, look at your options, Look beyond the conventional wisdom. By putting out advantage, we hide our disadvantage.

The world is filled with David's and Goliath's, neither weak neither strong, trying to co-exist while fighting their own inner battles.

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