October 8, 2013


boy showing muscles
"What happens in wars between the strong and the weak when the weak side does as David did and refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight, using unconventional or guerrilla tactics? The answer: in those cases, the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28.5 percent to 63.6 percent. To put that in perspective, the United States’ population is ten times the size of Canada’s. If the two countries went to war and Canada chose to fight unconventionally, history would suggest that you ought to put your money on Canada." — Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath

Who’s scheming to defeat you?

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in David and Goliath, you can’t fight conventionally … if you want to win. How strange that there’s still such desire in doing things the normal ways.
"When an underdog fought like David, he usually won. But most of the time, underdogs didn’t fight like David. Of the 202 lopsided conflicts in ArreguĂ­n-Toft’s database, the underdog chose to go toe-to-toe with Goliath the conventional way 152 times — and lost 119 times." — Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath
Maybe getting an A for trying is seen as better than doing what’s needed to win.


We can’t have a shoot-out without guns. We’d lose.
— Jason Statham (The Italian Job)
There are other ways to win. Consider advertising. That’s a conventional way to get attention. Maybe you can’t buy enough billboards or TV spots to make a lasting impression. Maybe you can’t afford any. Instead, you could earn attention by creating solid content that your network helps you spread. That is doable but less glamorous. You won’t win an award for the Ad Of The Year.

Google’s new Hummingbird smarter search algorithm helps smaller publishers with relevant content get found. YouTube puts you on the screen for free.

Old Boy Networks

Maybe you can’t make inroads into private clubs where big business gets done. New opportunities emerge.

Golf is considered essential for business … especially by golfers on expense accounts. Not every successful person golfs. I don’t. While the golfers are sweating or getting soaked outside, you can bond with the nongolfers.

Look at all the diversity in people these days. Which groups are a natural fit for you? If you get connected to the ‘rising stars’, you’re well positioned for successes the old boys won’t see. Besides, they’ll retire someday.

Bigger vs Better

Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power. — Lawrence of Arabia
The Goliaths are often slow and wed to the status quo. Be quick and experiment. They’ll know you hit them but not how to respond. You have a huge advantage when they’re unbalanced. Look at what happened to former giants like Blackberry.

UnderdogOther Battles

Maybe you’re not a good writer? That’s fixable. The nature of reading has changed as we’ve moved from paper to screens. There’s more skimming now (notice how I use lots of subtitles?). There’s also more tolerance for minor mistakes. Besides, you’ll improve with practice if you get started and keep going.

Maybe you don’t have 20+ years of experience? You’re spared from unlearning the old, less relevant ways engrained into yesterday’s experts. With less mental clutter, you’re better positioned to adapt. You might have skipped the step from typewriter to desktop computer to laptop. Does that really matter in today’s world of tablets and smartphones? Some new services don’t even run on computers or web browsers (e.g., newsreaders like Zite or Google Currents).

Maybe you don’t have enough customers? That means you’re not bogged down with the wrong kind of customers.

Maybe you don’t have time or don’t know how. Who does? You could start small by investing 15 minutes a day. The learning and doing become simpler. Baby steps help you win the marathon.
We think of things as helpful that actually aren’t and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leave us stronger and wiser.
— Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath
You achieve a sweet victory when you turn perceived disadvantages into advantages. We root for the underdogs in the movies and real life.


PS Maybe your biggest Goliath is inside you.

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