David and Goliath is the perfect story for the new year

David and Goliath by Caravaggio

David and Goliath by Caravaggio

Malcolm Gladwell is a genius at taking what everyone knows to be true and turning it upside down and inside out.  In his latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Gladwell destroys our assumption that the big and powerful have all the advantages, and that we underdogs and misfits don’t have a chance. It’s the perfect read to start your New Year.  

Here are some great takeaways from David and Goliath:

1. Don’t let the Establishment limit your success. If the powers that be won’t give you a platform, create your own:  The Impressionist movement was launched when a group of painters including Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Monet and Renoir couldn’t get their work displayed in the Paris Salon, the most important art exhibit in the world. Instead of continuing to beat on the closed door of the Salon, they started their own exhibition, and the rest is art history. “Together, this group of remarkable painters would go on to invent modern art…they supported one another emotionally and financially and today their paintings hang in every major art museum in the world”  

2. Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a big pond:  An Ivy League education isn’t necessarily the unmixed blessing you imagine. A disproportionate number of students who start out in a STEM program (science, technology, engineering or math) at an Ivy League school get discouraged and go into an easier major. They would have been better off attending a good state university, where they would have felt more confident.  One Harvard student told Gladwell he got so discouraged by his quantum mechanics class that he switched to law. “Harvard cost the world a physicist and gave the world another lawyer,” Gladwell writes ruefully. 

3. Your weakness may be exactly the thing that God uses to help you achieve your destiny: Gladwell explains how many dyslexics become highly successful innovators and entrepreneurs because they have to work so hard to achieve what everyone else takes for granted. The coping mechanisms dyslexics adapt prepare them to deal with obstacles that would cause the average person to give up.  “Dyslexia–in the best of cases–forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant. It also forces you to do things that you might otherwise never have considered.”

4. Don’t be afraid to stand up to bullies.  Ever.  This is my favorite story from David and Goliath: during WW II, the tiny French village of Le Chambon resisted the Nazi-controlled Vichy regime to give safe harbor to Jews. Led by Andre Trocmé, a pacifist Huguenot pastor, the courageous, hardy villagers outsmarted and outmaneuvered the Nazis at every turn. “How could the Nazis ever get to the end of the resources of such a people?,” Trocmé once said.

I love when conventional wisdom is exposed as no wisdom at all, and this book is full of unconventional wisdom.  At heart, David and Goliath is a deeply moral book, with many examples of people triumphing over evil or adversity in the most daunting circumstances, armed only with passion, courage and faith. 

You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor.  But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine. Malcolm Gladwell 

Don’t worry about being the guy with the sword and shield and the glittering armor, who seems to be invulnerable.  Be the shepherd, because you have more strength and purpose than you ever imagined. If you are small, embattled and under-equipped, you are the perfect person to defeat Goliath.  And that’s a great attitude to start the year with.

(By the way, this book is a great read for teenagers. Malcolm Gladwell has a very accessible style of writing and a wonderful way of explaining complicated concepts. There are many great lessons in this book for teens. Joe is reading it right now.)

(Affiliate link–if you buy the book through this link it won’t cost you any more, but it will help pay for Joe’s protein shakes.)

Do you have any recommendations for great books to start the New Year? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think! 

About the Author

Kathleen Caron

I'm good at finding stuff, and I love to share all my discoveries. I write about the intersection between faith, family, fellowship and food.

  • Brianna Wasson

    Thanks for this, Kathleen. I’ve seen this book and have wondered if it was a good read. Looks like it is. Guess I’ll have to check it out. :)

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I loved it Brianna, but then I am a pretty big Malcolm Gladwell fan. I thought it had special application for aspiring writers and creatives, because of the idea that you don’t have to be big and powerful to make yourself heard, you just need to create your own platform. Happy New Year my friend!

  • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

    Sounds like a great book, filled with lots of encouragement. Blessings!

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Joan, I found it very encouraging because everything in this world tells you that you have to have these resources and know those people to succeed, and this is a very different message indeed. I hope you get a chance to read it and let me know what you think. What are you reading for the New Year?

      • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

        I’ll do that, Kathleen. (And if I purchase via Amazon, I’ll use your affiliate link. Right now, I’m in the “in between” for reading. I read so much the first few months of the year, I neglected my writing. Now, I’m trying to find the right balance. The next thing I’ll read is a collection of short stories called Touch My Tears. It is a fictional account of the Choctaw Indians who traveled on the Trail of Tears to the Indian Nation (Oklahoma). The stories are based on family histories and all the authors are of Choctaw descent. A friend of mine, Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, is the editor and a contributing author. I read the pdf version a few weeks back and did a blurb for the book. However, want to read again, do a review, and possible interview with Sarah Elisabeth on my blog. http://www.amazon.com/Touch-My-Tears-Tales-Trail-ebook/dp/B00HFVP3QS

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          That sounds really good. I went through a period when I read alot of Native American history, including some of Dee Brown’s books. Did you get the book through Story Cartel, or because your friend is the editor?

          • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

            I got a free copy from my friend. My Dad read some of Dee Brown’s books. He was an avid reader.

  • Janelle

    I haven’t read it, but I’ll look for it now. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I hope you like this book Janelle, as I mentioned, Joe is reading it and likes it quite alot. I read in an interview with Malcolm Gladwell that he also regained his Christian faith in the writing of this book, which makes me like it even more.

  • La McCoy

    Well said

  • kathunsworth

    Kathleen anything positive sounds good to me, thanks for the review, my two are a little bit young yet, i will keep it in mind.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      You might like the book Kath, it is a real encouragement to anyone who marches to a different drummer, like most creatives. I keep remembering more good things I learned from this book.

  • http://anitamathias.com/ Anita Mathias

    Wow, ordering it now. I love Gladwell’s ability to think outside the box. It’s one form of genius, isn’t it?

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      It is indeed, and I am honored you stopped by to comment! One more reason to love this book that I forgot to mention–Malcolm Gladwell said in interviews that he regained the Christian faith he was raised in while writing this book. God is so good, and so surprising, and moves in such mysterious ways! Happy New Year!

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Great review Kathleen. Of course, I remember you are good at reviews. :) You know someone once told me that they would sell my book on their site and at the time, I didn’t know what it meant. I also think it’s good that you mentioned even the youth would benefit from reading David and Goliath.

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Thanks Anne, I do love reviewing books because that means I get to read them! “There could never be a book long enough or a cup of tea big enough for me,” CS Lewis. I guess I read almost everything with an eye to whether it would have helped me as a young person, and whether my kids would benefit from reading it now.