Goliath

“Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath” Wilt Chamberlain

The classic story of David and Goliath, where the underdog beats the giant resoundingly is the stuff of Biblical legends. Everyone knows the story of how the Philistine warrior giant challenged the lowly nation of Israel only to see him killed by a sling throwing young shepherd boy. This a story, which has been dissected a million times mostly to explain the surprise quotient the underdog, possesses prior to any battle. Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants gives an alternative explanation where David was well prepared when compared to a bumbling and sick Goliath. According to him the latter was never a match for the so-called underdog due to many reasons and there was actually no element of surprise. However you look at this tale, Goliath had a sad, tragic and a brutal death.

Who then was Goliath? If you want to properly understand the story of David and Goliath, you cannot neglect a third person who is never mentioned directly in tale but who was affected severely by its outcome-King Saul. Being the first king of Israel and a warrior just like his successor David, he was a victim of the internal politics present in Israel at that time. Since he was from the lowly tribe of Benjamin that had notoriety at that time across Israel, he was not widely accepted by all the tribes. King Saul, who was mentioned to be the tallest and the most courageous man in Israel, was cowering with fear at the sight of an equally sized adversary in this tale. In a match-off between two giants, Saul was waiting for the theatrics of Goliath to play out since the latter was having a field day with his taunts at his adversary. It is fair to say that at this time of combat, while Goliath taunted them for 40 days, Saul did nothing. Since Philistia provided the Israelites with their weapons, they knew that it would be hardly a conquest between these two nations.

The fall of Goliath was very much the failure of King Saul than the success of David who ended up being the future king of Israel. I would like to think of Goliath as an analogue of King Saul. Both were legends in what they have accomplished for their respective countries and both were usurped of their glory at the same time or disrupted by an young, innovative shepherd boy. Both were giants in stature and nobility- which they attained through some luck and hard work (The Bible vividly explains the advent of Saul yet there are no records however on Goliath.)

On June 29, 2015 it would mark the eighth birthday of the Apple iPhone. Before that, Apple was known as a company that made the iPods and struggled to come out of a disastrous bankruptcy, which literally destroyed the company. Two companies- Nokia, a Finnish company that made dumb phones and Blackberry that made smartphones, owned the mobile sector in those days. The former was so hugely popular that it at one time owned up to 51% of the global market share in mobile telephony. Blackberry at the same time was the synonymous with what smartphones were at that time and the perception then was that it would be the same forever. Both companies made their mark in their respective fields and as success and popularity surged, they started to become complacent and began slumbering. Nokia had a horrible OS called Symbian that it took forever to update and Blackberry or Research in Motion as it was called then, was so arrogant that I remember a time when I was asked to pay an annual fee only to obtain customer service!! Today Nokia does not make smartphones any more and Blackberry is more or less an epitaph. Michael Dell in 1997 famously remarked that if he were Steve Jobs (who had then returned to Apple after a long hiatus to rescue the company) he would shut Apple down and return the money to its shareholders. Dell at that time was a personal computing mammoth owning up to 30% of the market share. Today Dell is a private company whereas Apple has a cash reserve in exceedance of 175 billion dollars. Most of the time the credit is given to the interrupter but I think most of the fault lay with the incumbent as with time, success makes them lazy, incompetent and complacent. This was similar to what happened with King Saul and Goliath. It was actually easy for David to kill two birds with one stone, which he did as he flung the stone to Goliath breaking his skull.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, every company no matter how big it becomes, must always keep disrupting it’s field of business through continuous innovation and relentless pursuit of creative, sustainable and meaningful ideas. I can provide many examples where giants in the field are toppled because they failed to do so accordingly. When a company stops innovating, it stops growing, causing sustained decay to commence. Bureaucracy will creep in, decisions will get delayed, infighting and politics will ensures that  people who need to work and keep pushing the company ahead, instead end up fighting among themselves. With time, the company ceases to exist as it happened in the case of Nokia cellphones (which was later purchased by Microsoft), Palm and many other companies.

The story of David and Goliath would have been different if Goliath was proactive, attentive and crafty not to engage David. Instead the Bible quotes him as a man who was full of himself. He gave himself away in a platter to David who felled him by a slingshot. More than we would ever like to admit, there is a Goliath in each and everyone of us. Most of us work hard in our lives both personally and professionally, seeking a meaningful existence and reasonable wealth to sustain us throughout the days of our lives. After we reach the pinnacle of our lives, we get tired and complain about our lives forgetting what it actually took us till that spot in our lives. We become bitter and complacent with our lives and instead of moving on, we stop confused. Do you want that life or do you want an exciting life where you never settle, never conform and always think different? Do you want to be the Goliath that people actually root for?

Image courtesy: http://bible.wikia.com/wiki/File:David-Vs-Goliath.jpeg

Author: tennythomas

I have tried to do the best in every circumstance that I have been thrown into. Blogging is one of them.

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