David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell was a thought-provoking book for me. It was my 11th personal development book this year. I picked it up because I have wanted to read something by Malcolm Gladwell for a while and the title of this one grabbed by attention. I know many of you have felt like an underdog or a misfit at one time or another. I certainly have. And we have all faced our own giants.
Most of us have heard about the story of David and Goliath. Many times the story is told as if David was the underdog and Goliath had all the advantages. Gladwell turns this story on its head when he describes the battle from a historical perspective. Slingers were a regular part of ancient armies. The slinger could launch a stone with accuracy at 30 meters per second. It was the equivalent of a .45 caliber handgun. The slingshot was superior technology to Goliath who was stationary and relied on close combat to defeat his enemies. The question Gladwell raises is if we have been looking at this story wrong, what else might we need to take another look at?
There are four main concepts of the book. Each concept has multiple stories to illustrate Gladwell's point. I will highlight some of them here but I recommend you get the book to get all the great information yourself.
In the book Gladwell tells the story of Vivek Randive and his 12 year old daughter's basketball team. The team was made up of girls with little to no basketball experience or skills. Matched against teams who had far more experience, the team was doomed to fail. Except that Vivek was from Mumbai and looked at the game with an outside view. He saw how traditionally the game was played in the U.S. One team would score and then run to the other side of the court to defend their basket. He saw that if his girls would practice what is known as a full court press they could use it to their advantage. Instead of running to their own side when the ball was thrown in by the other team they pressed hard to not let them advance down the court. Frequently there was so much pressure on the opposing player to pass the ball in the allotted time that they would either throw it away or run out of time and the ball would go back to Vivek's team. If they did make the pass they faced additional pressure to advance the ball across mid-court in time before a turnover. In this manner Vivek Randive took this team to the national championships.
Moral of the story: When you don't have an advantage it can lead to innovation of a new way of doing things. You either give up or you work harder than the other guy. You may not always win but you increase your chances.
The inverted U describes a curve in the shape of an upside-down U. On the left side is the concept that too little of a good thing does not bring the results you want. The middle of the upside-down U is the sweet spot. Just enough of the good thing brings maximum results. The right side of the curve shows that too much of the good thing once again decreases the likelihood of good results.
I know that's a bit confusing but stick with me here. One of Gladwell's examples was classroom size. Smaller classroom size does not produce better learning for students. There is a sweet spot where optimal learning occurs and students interact with each other and learn from each other. Too many students once again decrease learning.
Another example he gave was choosing colleges. The top rated schools are not your best choice if you want to increase your chances of a successful career. It would take me too long to explain it here but he covers it well in this Google interview video:
Moral of the story: There is a sweet spot when you are trying to increase your chances of success.
One of the stories that goes along with this theme is the story of the London bombings by the Germans in World War II. It was predicted that before the bombings that there would be widespread destruction and panic that would completely break the morale of the British. People lived in great fear of the coming attacks. When it finally began with 57 straight days of bombings an interesting thing happened. There were, of course, those who were killed and those who survived near misses and subsequently traumatized. But there were many people who survived what was known as a remote miss. This group of people, after days of NOT being killed, actually became more resilient and more resolved that they would survive. The predicted panic didn't happen and the people actually became stronger for having lived through it.
Moral of the story: A disadvantage can be an advantage when we stop being afraid of being afraid.
A large part of the book discusses how some difficulties in life can be desirable if you look at the outcomes that arise from managing them. One example is about a man with dyslexia who compensated by learning other skills that made him highly successful. Another story discusses a man who grew up in a rough home and faced many difficulties as a child. He had to learn many different skills in order to survive and navigate his challenges. These skills resulted in some significant advantages as an adult.
Moral of the story: We don't wish for difficulties but when they arise we can use them to our advantage.
"Reframe some of your biggest challenges as difficulties that gave you the resources and the perspective to actually do what you're capable of doing." Brian Johnson of Optimize.me
Are mornings pleasant for you or do you just try to survive them until your coffee kicks in? Do you hop out of bed when your alarm goes off or hit the snooze over and over? How you start your day can set the tone for your whole day. There’s a reason that there is a saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed. I’m going to give you some tips for how to do a morning makeover to set your day up for success.
I’m a born night owl. Most of my life I went through my mornings in a fog. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I wasn’t amused at all by morning people. How dare they talk so loud and be so cheerful! I remember when I was a child my Grandpa (who got up before the sun) used to get just a few inches from my sleeping face and sing “Good Morning, Mary Sunshine” to me. His voice was beautiful, the song was sweet, he loved me, and yet I responded with a groan and pulled the pillow over my head. Late nights were my happy time. I would generally have to make myself go to bed because I never felt ready. Unfortunately I was not productive in those late hours. Time was wasted on TV, video games or social media.
A few years ago that all changed. I took on a challenge set up by author Jon Acuff to start working on something that mattered to me. As part of that challenge I began waking up at 5 a.m. so that I could work on my goals before the rest of the house was awake. It was a real stretch for a night owl but I found that I could get more done in my day and my whole day was better. I am now a dedicated morning person. This doesn’t mean I’m ready to have a deep conversation early in the morning but I don’t groan at everyone that looks at me either. I go to work with a sense of accomplishment and a lifted mood.
My perfect morning looks like this: I wake up after a good night’s sleep. A cup of delicious keto coffee to kick starts my fat burning for the day. I spend time studying my Bible and praying. Then I open my journal and review my goals for the day. I get a bit of exercise in. Next is reading for personal growth. If I don’t have time left to read I will listen to a podcast or video that helps me grow or motivates me. Listening to audio while getting ready for work or during my morning commute has been another game-changer for me.
I’d like to guide you through some steps to create your perfect morning routine.
What does your perfect morning look like? Take a few minutes to think about that and maybe even write it down. You can’t begin to design a great day if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. It’s not going to happen by chance. Write it down in as much detail as possible. Think about why you want to do these things. For me it is to have a sense of accomplishment, to focus my time on the right things, to start my day on a positive note, and to free up my evenings for time with family.
Everyone has different reasons why they may think they don’t have time in the morning. It may take setting your alarm just a little earlier or even breaking the habit of using the snooze button. The snooze button just puts you behind from the very start. It’s a habit that creates interrupted sleep and does not serve your purposes. Cut the snooze, get up a little early, and set yourself up for an amazing day. There are other ways to restructure your day to make mornings better. Depending on your goals there are steps you could take to put success in your way. In other words, set yourself up so that you can’t help but be successful. Here are a few ideas of what to do to build your morning makeover:
Pull out your description of a perfect morning that you wrote down in the earlier step. If you didn’t write it down I suggest you do it now. Put it where you will see it first thing in the morning. Your tendency will be to wake up and do what you usually do every other morning. For a while you may need a reminder that mornings are different now. As you practice your new routine you may find the need to tweak it a little to find what works for you. That’s OK. Tweak as needed.
Watch out that you don’t slip back into your old habits. It’s easy to do. If you slip up get right back on track the very next morning. Starting your day off right is worth it and sets you up for success for your whole day. Keep using those first few precious minutes of the day to establish some positive change in your life.
So how will you design your perfect morning? Post in the comments and let me cheer you on!
During worship at church I was struck with a thought that grabbed my attention. I was singing one of my favorite songs, “No Longer Slaves.” The chorus says,
“I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God”
This has become one of my battle cries in my war against food addiction. But today when I sang the bridge of the song:
“You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God”
I pictured the splitting of the Red Sea when the children of Israel were fleeing the enemy. It was a sudden, immediate miracle. But I didn’t feel like my weight loss journey was like that. It wasn’t a sudden breakthrough but a long process of struggling, of seeking and praying. Then it struck me. The moment wasn’t sudden for the Israelites either. It came after centuries of slavery and struggle. It came after Moses, the man of God, pleaded with Pharaoh, the ruler of the day, to let them go. They went through plague after plague while God fought for their freedom through Moses. They were protected from the plagues but it still must have been horrific to witness. It came after God gave them a tradition that would point them to the Messiah and his future sacrifice for them. It came after their obedience and it came after they followed God’s leading.
Once they finally got permission from Pharaoh to go to the desert to worship, the Egyptian army was sent against them. They spent a long night up against the sea with nowhere to go and the Egyptian army on their heels. God stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The next day, as they stood on the shore and witnessed the sudden splitting of the sea for their freedom as the enemy bore down on them, it seemed they were rescued in an instant. But they had experienced the many works God had done to bring them to the place where they were ready to step out into what He had for them.
But God had done many great works preparing and equipping them for the faith journey to a promised land. Now I stand at the edge of my own breakthrough and am realizing all God has done in me to bring me to this point. As this sea parts I stand in wonder not only at what God has prepared for me, but also at what He has prepared me for.
Once you decide it’s time to focus. Focus on actions that move you forward towards your goals. Focusing on the past does not move you forward. It’s OK to learn from the past but don’t hang out there. Focus on what you can control. What you focus on drives you.
There is value in gaining knowledge but don’t get stuck acquiring enough knowledge until the time is perfect. The time will never be perfect. Take what you know and take a step forward. Build momentum.
Continuing to build knowledge and applying that knowledge with action. Each day start out stating to yourself what your goals are and the steps you will take today to move towards them.
And now as William Wordsworth said,