Everybody loves a good story about an underdog— who overcomes impossible odds. Many movies are made with the central character as the underdog. This is the accepted structure of most screenplays in Hollywood today. The protagonist must be up against impossible odds, facing a literal or a figurative giant.
Real-life underdogs include George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, King David, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi, to name a few.
Only a tiny percentage of us want to slay giants. If you are called to battle giants in a given industry or profession, learning lessons from those who have done the same will be necessary.
Arreguin-Toft is a political scientist who calculated the odds of weaker countries winning wars against stronger countries. He found that when weaker countries fight by the same rules as the stronger countries, they only win 28% of the time. When they fight using unconventional methods, they win 64% of the time.
Vivek Ranadive never played or coached basketball before. In his first year as coach of his twelve-year-old girl's basketball team, he brought his inexperienced team to the national championships and almost won. How was this possible? He refused to play the traditional game of basketball. Instead, he taught his girls to play using unconventional methods.
George Washington sometimes fought the British using conventional warfare but often used guerilla tactics to win. If he had fought only using European-style tactics, he wouldn’t have won.
Never play by the Giant's rules.
My favorite underdog is King David of ancient Israel. He was unappreciated by his family and considered unworthy of greatness. Until he decided to become a giant killer, he spent most of his time alone in the pastures tending his father's sheep.
During this time, the Israelites were at a standstill against the Philistine army and were powerless to stop a giant named Goliath, nine and a half feet tall.
Every day Goliath emerged from his tent, dressed in armor, carrying a spear, a sword, and a weapon slung on his back. Daily he terrified the Israelites and challenged their best soldiers to face him in battle. Nobody was up to the challenge.
One day David was called out from the fields and sent to bring food to his brothers. When he arrived, he learned of Goliath's challenge and accepted. He was mocked and made fun of, but David paid them no mind. He prepared himself for the fight of his life.
The Israelites tried to outfit David with traditional battle weapons like heavy armor, a sword, and a spear. They wanted to get him to fight the way Goliath wished to fight. David found the weapons awkward; it was then he decided he wasn’t going to play by Goliath's rules. David opted to use a sling and a stone.
Slings in David’s time weren’t like the slingshots we used as kids. Ancient slingers could defeat infantry armed with swords and armor most of the time. A good slinger could penetrate the skull of his enemy.
When the contest began, David didn’t hesitate. He sprinted to the fight, quickly finding a few smooth stones; swinging his sling, he released the rock and sunk it straight into Goliath's forehead. David walked over to Goliath and chopped off his head using Goliath's sword.
This was a great victory that cemented David's position as a giant killer, and he went on to become the greatest king in Israel's history.
How did David win? He refused to play by the giant's rules. Indeed if David had approached Goliath dressed in full armor and armed with a sword, David would have lost his life.
Giant killers in modern times won't be using slings, swords, and spears. Our weapon will be the knowledge of the giant's weakness and a refusal to play the game the way the giant wants to play it.
If you choose to be a giant slayer, then remove all doubt and replace it with faith. People will laugh at you but do not pay attention. Sprint into battle, knowing your victory is secure.