Why It’s Always Better To Be The Underdog | Eps 39 #InTheLab

David and Goliath

In Malcolm Gladwell’s critically acclaimed David and Goliath he starts the book off with an interesting story about the Biblical account of the famous underdog parable “David vs Goliath”. In class Gladwell style, he completely changes your mind about what had happened many, many years ago. Several factors contributed to the odds not being against David but were actually in his favour.

David vs Goliath

First, Goliath needed a guide to walk, some scientists believe he had a disease that made him virtually blind. Our all powerful Philistine Warrior can’t even see who he’s fighting.

Second, Goliath was wearing hundreds of pounds of armour and armed with a sword and a javelin. Goliath can’t move very fast because he can’t see AND he’s weighed down. David on the other hand didn’t wear armour at all, he was agile, he could move much faster than his opponent.

Lastly, David was a “slinger”, a seemingly insignificant Shepard with a toy weapon. That’s how the classic David vs Goliath story has always been told. But Gladwell citing work done by Israeli ballistic experts clocked the Slinger’s stone flying at the rate of a bullet fired from a small handgun.

So you have a poor, small, Shepard boy who comes to a fight against a giant, but to turn the odds in his favour our Shepard boy brings what is equivalent to a handgun. Goliath wasn’t the favoured to win, David was. All these years we had it wrong, stop thinking you’re the underdog and find your unconventional way to fight.

The second story from Gladwell’s David and Goliath is the story of How The Weak Win Wars based on research of the Political Scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft. Over the past 200 years, when a country ten times the size of an opposing country go to war, the odds of the underdog winning are around 29.2%. Actually pretty high if you think about it. A country ten times the size of Canada would be the United States, which means in a war of Canada vs the USA, Canada has the odds of winning 29.2% of the time. Most people would guess that that number is a lot lower than close to a third of the time they come out victorious.

Now our political scientist did the same study but looked at the wars where the underdog fought unconventionally. An example would be the Viet Nam war, where the US grossly out numbered the Vietnamese but did not come out victorious. Mostly due to Viet Nam’s willingness to fight unconventionally. When the underdog fights unconventionally they actually turn the odds in their favour. In the same study as before, the underdog now doesn’t have the odds against them, they are in favour of the small, unconventional country winning a war on average 63% of the time.

It pays to fight unconventionally.

The 2008 Superbowl

The 2008 New England Patriots were more than a football team, they were a winning machine. They went undefeated throughout the season, an accomplishment few teams have ever done. The last game of the season was versus the New York Giants and of course, New England won.

A perfect season, a perfect team, a perfect ending…..not really. The 2008 Superbowl between the New England Patriots vs the New York Giants was one of those games. Not one you wanted to watch, one you assumed the Pats would run all over those push-overs of Giants.

The Giants lead by Eli Manning (an unconventional quarterback) put together one of the greatest upsets in sports history. New England had just beat them the last game of the season and were incredibly over confident. The Giants with nothing to lose played their hearts out and upset the Patriots. It was a games for the ages. Some say the greatest upset in history. But to some, just another story of the underdog coming out victorious.


The 2015 Winston Knoll senior boys Volleyball team

Every year I go into the season saying we’re going to win Provincials. Rarely do I ever mean it, I’m just an eternally positive person. I don’t care who I’m playing against, I always believe I have a chance of winning.

We had an amazing season last year, only lost 5 games before provincials. Pretty amazing. This year we didn’t know what to expect. We did pretty good in tournaments, getting a couple second places and winning the consolation side in Brandon. We were 5th going into the city final tournament.

This year wasn’t like most, 5 teams had a shot at winning cities, usually just one or two are that good. We were fifth going in with a record of 4 and 5, nothing to brag about at the highschool dance that’s for sure!

The first night of city finals we played Riffel. We’ve never beat them during the season, we went into the game as underdogs and we ended up winning. The boys looked a little different.

We lost to Campbell in the morning but beat Martin later that morning. We were in good shape going into the playoffs. On the other side of the tournament draw Miller and LeBoldus played for first place, Miller beats them in a loud third set.

We beat O’neil in the quarter finals, and we’re set to play Miller in the semi final with the winner going to the final and a birth into Provincials the following weekend. We were again the underdogs and we some how put together the game of our lives and upset Miller.

It’s always good to be the underdog. 

We met this really driven Mortgage Broker in Saskatoon named Deb Murdoch. Her attitude really reminds me of the underdog attitude, always trying to over deliver, cares dearly about every customer, and follows up after the fact. The only business strategy now is acting like the underdog. Deb does that very well!

What a ride. It was one of the funnest days of tournament play I’ve witnessed. I may have a heart condition now but it was worth it.

In sports, in business, and in life, it’s always good to be the underdog.