The Old Testament story in the Bible of David fighting Goliath is a story of beating the odds. David was a sheepherder who led a very predictable and ordinary life. He might never have discovered his greatness if he hadn’t taken a risk and stepped into the unknown.
The Philistine army had gathered their troops for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley. Every day for forty days, a Philistine warrior named Goliath broke out from the front line and challenged the Israelites to fight. Goliath was reported to be a giant of a man—he measured over nine feet tall and wore full armor. The Israelites fell back in fear when they saw the huge form of Goliath challenging them. They held out no hope for beating the odds.
Described as a runt by his father, David’s job was to run back and forth from herding sheep to bring news of his brothers who were all on the Israelite battle line. He looked at Goliath and asked, “What’s in it for the man who kills the ugly Philistine?”
He learned that King Saul would offer a huge reward and give his daughter in marriage. David thought of a way of beating the odds and said, “I’m your man!”
The runt of the litter takes on the giant. We love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find ways of beating the odds! Here is how David did it:
1. Mastered A Skill Set
David had never fought in battle as a soldier but he had other experiences. He knew how to use a sling and perfectly weighted stones to protect lambs from large and strong predators like lions and bears. He was prepared to use those same skills to protect the Israelites. It took years of practice, but he never became distracted from learning the skills he needed to become a master of his trade.
TIP: Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of intense focus applied to your area of expertise. Once you master your own skillset, it will give you confidence that you will be successful in beating the odds against big and strong opponents.
2. Acknowledged His Weaknesses
The soldiers laughed at David because he did not have a soldier’s training. The first thing they tried to do was turn David into one of them. They suited him in their armor and gave him a sword. But David was not a soldier and had never trained as one. He said, “I cannot fight in this because I’m not used to it.” The techniques of a soldier were not his own, and he was wise enough to acknowledge what he didn’t know so he could focus on what he did.
TIP: You will excel only if you maximize your strengths and stop trying to fix your weaknesses. Don’t ignore your weaknesses but acknowledge them so you are better able to manage them. This allows you to free up time and focus on developing your strengths.
3. Used The Skills He Understood
David met Goliath on the battlefield with a sling and five smooth, carefully selected stones because those were the tools of his trade. He had used these same tools against lions and bears.
While others considered David an underdog, he knew about beating the odds because he possessed a strong arm and good aim. He understood how to use these skills and adapt to his circumstances. He was authentic and didn’t try to live by someone else’s rules. David used the skills and talents he possessed and had developed. In other words, he was unconsciously competent.
TIP: When confronted with the unknown in a volatile and hostile environment, lean into the personal strengths and skills that you’ve honed through practice and experience.
4. Pressed Into The Unknown
According to the Biblical account, “David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.” David took leadership of the situation when he broke the pattern of the challenge. He moved toward the threat and pressed into the unknown.
In this case, Goliath may not have expected David to move closer and at such speed. He may have been caught unaware and hesitated, thereby giving David an opportunity of beating the odds by using his slingshot.
As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at the gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. Once struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground. David then took Goliath’s own sword, killed him, and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
To increase safety, move toward the unknown—only by moving closer to the threat was David able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities that could not be seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward. The closer Goliath came, the more ways David could see of defeating the giant. He saw a small gap in Goliath’s armor that was not visible from a distance.
Increase your chances for success and move toward the challenge—when confronted with changing environments and overcoming challenges as a leader, you may also need to leave your place of safety and press forward.
David possessed the mental toughness to find ways of beating the odds and destroying Goliath. Nothing is impossible—you, too, can find a way.
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