There’s a lot in this supercharged, super-sized world of ours that can make us feel small. Big money, big corporations, big personalities grab the lion’s share of privilege and power.
Disadvantaged – even ordinary – lives and experiences can seem insignificant in comparison. How do we compete against the big guns if we haven’t had the best education, grew up without advantages, feel like an outsider, or have had our sense of self diminished by illness, bereavement or divorce? Well, maybe our position – and potential – is stronger than we think.
A new book by thinker and writer Malcolm Gladwell argues that ‘everything we know about power isn’t right’. In David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants (Allen Lane, £16.99), he offers hope for anyone who has felt disempowered.
‘The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it opens doors and creates opportunities and educates and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable,’ he says.
Maybe we all have the power to cut our personal giants down to size. Each chapter tells the story of a different person who has faced an outsized challenge. Through their experiences, Gladwell suggests, first, that greatness can come out of lopsided conflicts. And second, that we misinterpret these power struggles; that the things that give ‘giants’ strength are also a source of weakness, and that underdogs have more advantages than they think.
In the pages of this book, we meet a man who conquered dyslexia to become a leading lawyer; a doctor who overcame a deprived childhood to become a pioneer of a leukaemia treatment; a civil rights activist who defied oppression. But first we meet the most famous giant of all – Goliath, and his nemesis, David. And we all know who the victor was there…