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David and Goliath Summary

Here’s the David and Goliath summary. The full title is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Learn how to succeed even if you’re an underdog in terms of lack of education, discrimination, or other adversities.


David and Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell explains how to succeed even if you’re battling giants. You’ll know the story of why David has the real advantage in the battlefield.

The author also explains why early advantages (e.g. living in a privileged environment) can actually hinder you from success. You’ll realize that you have advantages that giants don’t have.

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian speaker, journalist, and bestselling author. Aside from David and Goliath, he also wrote Outliers, The Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw, and Blink.

His work focuses on sociology, psychology, and social psychology. He started gaining popularity when he wrote The Tipping Point and The Coolhunt for The New Yorker.

Main takeaways: David and Goliath Summary

Let’s discuss the key takeaways from his book:

  1. Living in a privileged environment can make you weak.
  2. Disadvantages can help you overdevelop your skills in other areas.
  3. Even if you’re small, you can still beat the big competitors.

Living in a privileged environment can make you weak

This is true. People who got all the things they want without hard work have a tendency to become weak. They won’t develop the strength to work. They would think that everything comes easy.

When one big struggle comes, they crumble. They never saw it coming. That one big struggle surprises them. They might never come back because they’ll be psychologically destroyed completely.

But if you’ve been facing struggles early on your life, you’ll gain an advantage. You’ll know what it takes to succeed. You’ll know what price to pay to get what you want.

When you encounter a big struggle along the way, you’ll recognize that it’s just like the others. You’ll be able to navigate and you can face it just like your earlier problems.

Contrast that with the privileged people. Yes they gained early advantages such as good education and exposure to more opportunities. But their weakness is also that. They might get overconfident. They might slack off. That’s where your opportunities lie.

Disadvantages can help you overdevelop your skills in other areas

Those disadvantages can actually help you gain unfair advantages. Look at how David beat Goliath. David is small and Goliath is a giant. But David still managed to win. How?

Yes David is small but that’s also an advantage. He can be fast and flexible. He can dodge the attacks of the giant. The giant is slow to move. He also wears heavy armor. He can’t easily dodge the attacks of the small and fast person.

The same thing applies to us. The disadvantages we have can also be used as a source of strength. For example there are dyslexic people who still made it to success. Some of them are Agatha Christie, Jennifer Aniston, Orlando Bloom, and Richard Branson.

They have a learning disability. But that disability might have led them to develop their skills in other areas. Dyslexia is often a constraint. But just like with other constraints, it helps people focus. They have fewer options left. That’s why they give it all to what they choose.

Even if you’re small, you can still beat the big competitors

The most popular example is the story of David and Goliath. Most people that time think that David doesn’t stand a chance. He’s small and he looks weak. Goliath is a giant and he looks strong. He can actually beat a whole army.

However, that didn’t stop David from winning. He still has some advantages. He used those to beat the giant. You can also do the same.

You don’t have to focus on physical strength alone. It’s certain that you have other advantages that you can use to outsmart your enemy. You can do it with superior tactics or you can exploit a weakness. There’s always a counter-move for each action of the competitor.

For example you’re in the restaurant business. You just have a small restaurant and your competitor right across the street is 3 times as big as you.

The situation seems hopeless. The competitor is bigger. They have more seats and they can hold more customers. Your restaurant on the other hand is small and you can’t accommodate much people.

But there’s a hidden advantage in that. There’s a chance that not every time that big restaurant will be full. They hired a lot of staff to operate the business. They also incur more expenses because of their size. They need more customers than you if they want to survive. They have much more to lose.

You on the other hand just need a few customers each day to break even. You don’t have much overhead. You’ll survive more likely. You’ll stay in business.

You’ve learned that being small still has advantages. Even if those disadvantages are discouraging, you can also use them to get better in other areas. Aside from that, you’ll also learn the following from the David and Goliath book:

  • If you’re the underdog, don’t fight the big competitors in their own domain
  • Why the loss of a parent at an early age helped some people become more successful
  • The powerful and the strong have disadvantages we can exploit
  • Understand the limits of power
  • Why trying just harder will help you gain an advantage

My personal takeaways

We’re fond of making excuses. If we’re planning to start a business, we’ll say a bunch of things. We’ll say: we don’t have much capital, we don’t have the expertise, a big competitor is just right across the street, we don’t have much time, etc.

Yes no matter how we look at them, they’re all disadvantages. However, we can turn them into advantages if we know how. For example when we have just enough capital to start the business. We can focus on the necessary only to start serving the customers. We’ll be resourceful. We’ll be more focused.

When it comes to lack of expertise, we can always learn. We’re even humble because we’re aware that we don’t have expertise. This will motivate us to learn everything about the customer. We won’t make baseless assumptions. We’ll just do the work and learn along the way.

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