Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers” and “Blink” has an article out this month in The New Yorker. It’s called “How David Beats Goliath” and with his deft storytelling and character development Gladwell makes the case for effort over ability. He tells about Vivek Ranadive and his basketball team of 12 year old girls in Redwood City, California. To overcome a lack of talent they mastered the full court press. It wasn’t pretty, with flailing arms and lots of jumping around, but the the relentless defense kept the other team from organizing and they would get crushed every time. Lawrence of Arabia did the same thing against the Turks. Instead of playing the game their way and attacking them in Medina where they were fierce, his shabby group of Bedouins, came in from the hostile desert in the east and acted like a bunch of insurgents, hitting the Turks and their railway every day. The Redwood City girls and Lawrence of Arabia both used unconventional strategies and won the war.
I care about this story because I am the mother of a talented high school basketball player who is having to step up his game as the opportunities to make a team narrow and the competition gets tougher. Despite his strengths on the court, and there are many, he still needs to focus on fundamentals like shooting and dribbling. I’m trying to impress upon him how important attitude is and the willingness to work harder than everyone else if you really want something. I’ve reminded him that those who are making moves aren’t doing so because they are better than him but because they are hungrier and are working harder. The lesson doesn’t only hold true on the basketball court but in school and the workplace and everywhere that people need to play smart to stay competitive. Underdogs lose when they try to play by the giant’s rules. But when they reinvent the game in unexpected ways they often triumph. I loved this article because of its simplicity. Attitude over talent. Effort over ability. David over Goliath.
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