Many of us review our priorities at the start of a new year. As I went through this process, my perspective was informed by Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
Three thousand years ago, and against all odds, a teenage shepherd boy armed with a pebble, sling and his faith felled a mighty enemy warrior. Gladwell uses this classic underdog versus giant account to challenge common perceptions we have of obstacles and disadvantages we face. He offers a fresh interpretation of what it means to suffer a disability, be undereducated, be discriminated against, lose a family member, or persevere through a host of other apparent setbacks. By analysing David’s story and applying the lessons learned to the way we deal with adversity and struggles, Gladwell encourages us to view adversity with courage and resourcefulness.
The author also takes the time to point out that many of world’s most successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic, were raised in single parent families, suffer of depression or psychological conditions, or have suffered horrific loss in some way. Some have struggled in a racist environment and with little to no financial support. The struggles are real, and Gladwell does a phenomenal job of relating incredible stories of how some of the biggest leaders and most ferocious business minds overcame adversity and became stronger while doing so.
The lessons one can learn from all this can easily be applied to the world of business and start-ups. Think about it for a second. The very same things that appear to make a company so formidable and powerful, like Goliath (such as its huge size and massive resources), can actually serve as stumbling blocks. This is especially the case when forced to respond to a situation where the rules are changing. Nimbleness, flexibility, and adaptability are more useful attributes in this new era. Start-ups are more able to respond to what consumers want, and what the market needs.
Having had the privilege of working in both large corporations and start-ups at different times in my career, the insight I gleaned was valuable in helping me check my perspective, and look for the strengths instead of the limitations of each position. As you start off the new year in a leadership position at work, make an effort to view your team or company’s perceived limitations in a new and optimistic way.
Analyse your obstacles and disadvantages, and ask yourself if they have made you stronger or if they have taught you something valuable you never thought possible. My hope for the new year is that we all embrace the David in us and defeat our giants!
We need courageous leaders
As Malcom Gladwell says, ‘Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.’ This rings true when we look back on our lives and the challenging situations we have all had to face. Try to keep this thought at the forefront of your mind in 2017.
Great and successful businesses need courageous leaders. Tough times will come again in 2017, as they do every year. This time, let’s look at adversity differently.
Search to glean its potential strengths, and face your challenges with courage and hope.
Author: Brett Tromp CA(SA) is CFO of Discovery Health