Book Review – David and Goliath

David and Goliath is not just a story in the Bible – it’s a recent book by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell, the author of five books and a staff writer for The New Yorker, is well-known for his creative insights into life using academic research as a basis for his ideas. An English-born journalist, author, and public speaker, he now resides in Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada in June 2011.

Gladwell approaches the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective than one to which most people are accustomed. To most, the story is a classic example of an underdog (David) overcoming a huge warrior-giant (Goliath). And that is what happened – David defeated Goliath with the help of God.

But Gladwell points out that another perspective on the battle between the two of them shows that David’s victory, in some respects, should not have been unexpected. Goliath was a huge, lumbering heavy infantryman who needed an armor-bearer to help him with all of his weaponry and armor. David, on the other hand, was a nimble slinger who, based on historical information, could likely sling a stone with incredible accuracy at great distances, at a speed close to the speed of a bullet fired from a .45 pistol!

In other words, Goliath was looking for another heavy infantryman to fight in close, hand-to-hand combat; but instead, he encounters a fast-moving, accurate slinger who can attack from a distance and who hits him with stone before he can even thrust his spear at David.

Gladwell uses this perspective to point out that what we often perceive as strengths which can never be undermined – Goliath’s strength – can actually be weaknesses at some point. And that which we often perceive as weakness – David’s youth and experience and lack of armor – can actually be a strength, if applied strategically.

In other words, perceived advantages can often be disadvantages. And perceived disadvantages can often be advantages.

Gladwell goes on to demonstrate this from several different perspectives. A few examples:

⁃ Vivek Ranadivé, who knew nothing about basketball, but coached his daughter’s basketball team all the way to Nationals by teaching them to use the full-court press all the time – a completely unorthodox strategy that helped them defeat teams that should have easily defeated them.

⁃ The advantage of being a Little Fish in Big Pond, which can sometimes draw attention to your uniqueness and create unexpected opportunities.

⁃ Dyslexia – while dyslexia is classified as a learning disability, it seems that an inordinate amount of successful entrepreneurs have overcome dyslexia.

⁃ How Wyatt Walker, one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s lieutenants, used the media to help shift perspectives and empower the Civil Rights movement when it appeared to be facing irrelevance.

⁃ A group of “powerless” Irish mothers, who stood up against the might of the British Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and broke the control the British Army had established in Lower Falls.

These and several other examples drive home Gladwell’s major theme – your greatest disadvantage, your greatest weakness, can become a great advantage and strength if you are strategic about it. I would add to that if you can trust on God for wisdom and strength in that pursuit. (It’s a hopeful word for churches in today’s stagnant church conditions in America.)

But it is also a word of warning – beware of trusting in your strengths and advantages. There can come a point where they become weaknesses and disadvantages. (I believe that is part of what happened to evangelical churches in the last decade).

If you want a challenging and thought-provoking read, or if you are a leader who is willing to think outside of the box, I would recommend David and Goliath. You can purchase it on Kindle here.

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