Sunday, June 07, 2009

David vs Goliath

The May 11 issue of the New Yorker is especially meaty & juicy, w/fascinating articles on neuroscience, Gerard Manley Hopkins (the Catholic innovator of English poetry), China's first(?) great contemporary filmmaker, Eugene O'Neil's love triangles & more.

The best piece though is Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating "How David Beats Goliath," in which he dissects girl's basketball, Lawrence of Arabia, modern & ancient warfare, and yes, one reason young David beat the gigantic, professional warrior. Or as Gladwell writes:

"When they finally arrived at Aqaba, Lawrence’s band of several hundred warriors killed or captured twelve hundred Turks, and lost only two men. The Turks simply did not think that their opponent would be mad enough to come at them from the desert. This was Lawrence’s great insight. David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability—and substituting effort for ability turns out to be a winning formula for underdogs in all walks of life, including little blond-haired girls on the basketball court."

and

"Insurgents, though, operate in real time. Lawrence hit the Turks, in that stretch in the spring of 1917, nearly every day, because he knew that the more he accelerated the pace of combat the more the war became a battle of endurance—and endurance battles favor the insurgent. “And it happened as the Philistine arose and was drawing near David that David hastened and ran out from the lines toward the Philistine,” the Bible says. “And he reached his hand into the pouch and took from there a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead.” The second sentence—the slingshot part—is what made David famous. But the first sentence matters just as much. David broke the rhythm of the encounter. He speeded it up. “The sudden astonishment when David sprints forward must have frozen Goliath, making him a better target,” the poet and critic Robert Pinsky writes in “The Life of David.” Pinsky calls David a “point guard ready to flick the basketball here or there.” David pressed. That’s what Davids do when they want to beat Goliaths."

and

"We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity. It’s the other way around. Effort can trump ability—legs, in Saxe’s formulation, can overpower arms—because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor co√∂rdination."

Read it all, then read some response on Gladwell's blog. It'll make you rethink any type of leadership you're part of!

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