Things aren’t always as they seem.
Malcolm Gladwell’s books often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and often clarify scholarly research, particularly in the areas of sociology and social psychology. He broke through with an article published in The New Yorker. The Talent Myth is the misconception that management and executives use to erroneously classify. The bottom line, he discovered, is that the most successful companies are those who reward experience above all else and require greater time for promotions. He’s also well-known for his focus on how humans share more in common than otherwise. He’s against “streamlining” in schools because often those we’ve labeled simply live up to the labels and expectations, rather than being prepared to succeed. Even Outliers, for instance, are those who have put in at least 10,000 hours of concentrated, focused practice.
Similarly, Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is a classic underdog tale: David, a young shepherd armed only with a sling, beats Goliath, the mighty warrior. The story has transcended its biblical origins to become a common shorthand for unlikely victory. But is that really what the David and Goliath story is about?
We misunderstand David and his choice of weaponry, as well as Goliath. He’s not what he seems to be either. David is a shepherd, true, but in order to protect his flock, he’s also a slinger. Slingers in ancient warfare could be extremely accurate, could even hit birds in flight.
Meanwhile, Goliath, the biblical text notes, is followed by an attendant, is slow, and takes a long time to respond to David, and says “come to me.” Was there something fundamentally wrong with Goliath? There has been a lot of medical speculation on it: giantism? Acromegaly? The condition has a set of side effects: vision. The pituitary gland compresses the retina. At 6’9, based on the other odd textual information, it’s theorized that Goliath very likely suffered from such a condition.
The very thing that was the source of his apparent strength, was also the source of his weakness. Giants are not always as powerful as they seem, and sometimes the shepherd boy has a sling in his pocket.