Last night I was watching a short BookTV interview of Malcolm Gladwell discussing his soon to be released new book – David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.
At one point during the interview Mr. Gladwell was asked why is it that most Goliaths (large corporations, politicians, celebrities, etc.), with many successes in the past to be considered Goliaths, suddenly are beaten by Davids (the little guys) and disappear? Or, why do Goliaths shoot themselves in the foot? This is an excellent question!
Mr Gladwell answers the question by saying that Goliaths become too comfortable with their lives and rest on their past successes. They stop innovating, become arrogant and forget where they came from, lose the courage to continue the struggle for the greater good, and refuse to break the cycle of the status quo.
We all can understand how hard it is to give up fame, fortune, and power, especially when it took some much time and effort to get.
I think that the great ancient philosophers, a few modern thinkers, and the masters of the fine arts knew what Mr Gladwell was saying, but they go an extra few steps in answering the question. Many Goliaths shoot themselves in the foot for the same reasons that Mr. Gladwell mentions – they meet with many successes and stop. The reason they stop is that they believe that they have reached the end and have all the prizes of life which they have won, and now they can rest.
What they don’t understand, and what the many myths and artists teach us, is that these successful people are fortunate to have the wherewithal to continue the call to adventure, if the call is accepted. Many goliaths are beaten because they fail to accept this call, which requires courage, humility, moderation, justice, etc. They cut short their own adventure and forego far greater rewards in the future than what they have accomplished to date.
Against all odds, David accepted the call and beat Goliath. But as Michelangelo represents, David is not celebrating his triumph (he is not even holding the head of Goliath), he is simply resting knowing that there are many more trials that must be won before his adventure is complete.