A year ago I would never have dreamed of not finishing a book once I had started, especially not one written by such an esteemed author.
This doesn’t mean Malcolm’s new book is bad, it just stopped resonating with me.
I agree with one particular Amazon reviewer who said that the author seems to make the same point over and over again.
I know what they mean because I got the point in the very first chapter where Malcolm recites the story of David and Goliath and provides some commentary.
In my personal opinion, the book could have ended there because I got it, I mean I really got it. I would have been happy even though I’d spent money on it.
I wasn’t reading the book for entertainment, I was reading it to learn.
I got the lesson but carried on reading for a while to confirm that I really had learnt the lesson. At that point I felt the need to put it down.
The extra bits I read were not even entertaining, so there was no benefit to investing more time in the book when I’d got what I wanted.
Like I said, a year ago I would have still finished it because of the esteem of the author and a belief that you “should” accept everything he says because he is an authority. Plus I used to have a belief that once you start a book you have to finish it.
No you don’t.
I have the Audible audiobook version of David and Goliath and is narrated by Malcolm Gladwell himself, which is nice. However he takes what I would call a very “grave” tone throughout.
It’s as if he wants you to take the material as very serious, dark and somber. That didn’t resonate with me. I don’t appreciate anything that has the potential to influence my state in a negative way, especially when it’s optional.
All right, so if you’ve read this far then I bet I can read your mind “so what’s the lesson from the book?”.
Fine, I’ll give you the lesson that I took from the book, which is only my interpretation.
While initially you may just think the lesson is the same obvious one that everyone understands from the original David and Goliath story, there’s a deeper level of understand that I got.
The difference this deeper level of understanding has made is that it has allowed me to begin to take the same formula that resulted in David winning the battle and begin to apply it to my business.
While previously I would use the phrase “David and Goliath” simply to describe a situation where an underdog was going up against a much stronger opponent and leave it at that, it’s now changed in my mind to be defined as a proactive approach to take in the face of strong established competition.
Malcolm points out that Goliath came prepared based on certain assumed terms upon which the battle would be conducted.
Goliath wore layers and layers of heavy armour, carried a huge mace, a large heavy sword and shield, a thick heavy helmet, all set on his large body muscular body.
There’s no wonder no one from the opposing side volunteered to go down to the valley and fight. Few could have beaten Goliath on his own terms, and that was exactly the point.
Everyone on both sides blindly accepted the terms upon which the battle would take place i.e. a hand to hand fight at close quarters between two heavy infantrymen.
David just as readily knew that he could not beat Goliath on those terms, but he could beat him on his own terms.
So the story goes, David was a skilled slinger, someone who could hit a moving target from 30 meters away with the force of a modern handgun.
That’s why he volunteered to go down and fight.
To everyone else this appeared to be crazy based on the assumption that David was going down to fight hand to hand. On that assumption he was crazy.
David didn’t need courage to face the prospect of getting through all that armour and dodging Goliath’s huge sword. David knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere near all that.
His skill as a slinger, was not only his advantage, but it made all the apparent advantages of his opponent irrelevant.
You might even say that Goliath’s supposed advantages suddenly became a liability since all that weight meant he moved very slowly.
It applies in exactly the same way as described by Malcolm’s commentary.
You take the Goliath you’re facing, perhaps a well established company in your market, perhaps a market leader or even a monopoly, and you question the assumption upon which you believe that they are stronger than you.
We assume because the corporations have large cash reserves, more man power, more brand awareness in the marketplace, that means they have the advantage.
That may be true, based on a battle on those terms.
But what if the terms of battle were to change without your Goliath realising?
I believe this is happening and I believe it’s thanks to the Internet.
For the first time every, the Internet allows equal access to money making opportunities.
Prior to the Internet, a relatively small group of people created physical obstacles to keep people from syphoning any of their enormous wealth.
When I say physical barriers I mean things like office buildings, corporate hierarchy’s, locating themselves in the capital cities of countries where the money was and so on.
But what happens when pretty much everyone has access to something that can bypass those obstacles? i.e. the Internet.
And what if the rules change without it being obvious to the Goliath’s of the world?
The danger for them is that they are so ‘fat, dumb and happy’ that many will be oblivious to what is happening.
That is until a speeding rock is inches away from smacking them square on the head.
And that rock, will come from you.
So have a little fun with this exercise.
Write down all what you think are your competitors advantages.
Then use your imagination and dream up as many different circumstances in which, like David and Goliath, those advantages would become irrelevant or even a liability.
Do the same for your weaknesses. List as many things as you can that you believe to be your weaknesses.
Then again, use your imagination to dream up different scenarios in which those weaknesses of yours became irrelevant or even become a sudden advantage.
For the 1-2% of you who read this article and actually do the exercise, if you come up with any exciting conclusions as a result of this article, please share them with me.