@jay8085 via flickr
Malcolm Gladwell has been making the rounds promoting his new book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I haven’t read the book yet, but the premise seems very similar to a New Yorker article he wrote in 2009. Underdogs, it turns out, can win if they break from convention. Think of how battles used to be fought: a row of soldiers lining up in perfect little rows, getting on one knee, aiming their guns, and firing. It seems crazy by today’s standards, and new kinds of warfare replaced this tactic. Gladwell explores how teams and individuals succeed by breaking with convention and creating their own rules.
David did a number of things differently when he fought Goliath: abandoning armor and a sword and racing towards his incredulous foe. Read 1 Samuel 17: there is no indication that he lacked confidence, this shepherd who would fight both lions and bears to rescue members of his flock.
The story of David and Goliath has permeated our consciousness as a story of an underdog verses an unstoppable force and how – despite all odds – perseveres. There are thousands of stories about the underdog claiming victory, and while playing by a different sent of rules is an important part of winning, the perspective that allows you to see those possibilities is one of not seeing yourself as an underdog.
I was reminded of this last Thursday as I was watching the Project Runway Reunion Special. The designers were commenting on the grueling pace of the show (us viewers only see a fraction of the time they spend awake during production…more fatigue means more drama which means more ratings) and the difficulty of creating a runway-worthy look in eight hours. One of the designers, though, spoke up and commented that she didn’t consider the eight-hour time frame a hindrance: she saw it as a fun challenge to see what she could create in a limited window of time.
If you are currently struggling with your career, take a look at perspective you are inhabiting. If you feel like you’re an underdog, fighting an uphill battle to create the career that fulfills you, you probably are stuck in an underdog mindset. Whether or not you are objectively an underdog (if there is such a thing) doesn’t matter: how you regard yourself does.