David and Goliath – A book review

Malcolm Gladwell needs no introduction. He’s the best-selling author of “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking“, amongst others. His fifth book is appropriately title “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants“.

Last year I referenced his new book on LinkedIn, and the correlation between an article I read in The Guardian Weekly, called “You are probably wrong about everything” by Bobby Duffy. I finished the book late last year, and decided to do a review early in the new year, when everyone is fresh and needs a challenge for the new year.

If you often feel like a David, battling a Goliath, especially in business, but also in your personal life, then this book is for you. If you just started a new company, then this book is for you. If you lack the confidence on how to move forward, then this book is for you. David never lacked confidence, even in the face of Goliath. What this book will show you is how to get the confidence you need, to face the Goliaths in your life.

The book starts with Gladwell retelling the story of David, but in a way you have never heard it before. Malcolm Gladwell is very good at spotting the smallest details in his research and interpreting details in his writing in a way that makes sense, because David’s victory was improbable, even miraculous. He should never have won… or should he have?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks. – Amazon review

What I took from this book is a quote from chapter three. It is based on findings about second generation businesses, that so often fail. A son or daughter following in their mother or father’s footsteps, but don’t have the same life lessons as their parents have. All they have and all they can use is the interpretations of those lessons, but never have the same understanding about the value of things.

Any fool can spend money. But to earn it and save it and defer gratification, then you learn to value it differently.

The last learnings I took from this book, is about legitimacy and authority. If you remember David became King. So it’s important to understand that fighting your way to the top is not about proving yourself to others, it’s about proving you can, to yourself. So many leaders who get to the top, stop to lead, and instead they turn around, and fight off everyone trying to reach the top and become leaders themselves. Instead they should face forward and carry on leading, because you’re never really at the top. There’s always more to gain, to learn and to experience.

Those who give orders are acutely vulnerable to the opinions of those they are ordering about

The principle of legitimacy is that when people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters first and foremost how they behave. The book covers the topics of legitimacy and authority in great detail, and it’s worth the read. I won’t cover it all here, but I will end off with a quote.

Legitimacy is based on three things. Firstly, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice, that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation, that the rules tomorrow, are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And thirdly, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.