The story of David and Goliath has been told for generations as one of the staples of an underdog overcoming a giant obstacle. We have seen it over and over, from old stories to sports games and human achievement. But for some reason, we always think that the odds are not in our favor. And that’s part of the reason these stories are so captivating- because they happen less often. But what if we’ve just been thinking about it all wrong? What if the capacity for the underdog to succeed has always been there, but it means taking a different approach. It means not being conventional. It means not being stereotypical. All we need for the underdogs to win is to create a new set of rules. A set of rules that set them up for success instead of inevitable failure. Where the story of their success isn’t a phenomenon but par for the course in everyone’s life? Fortunately, we have the opportunity to see it every day.
I chose to read this book by Malcolm Gladwell by happenstance. I’ve been interested in reading his books The Tipping Point and Outliers for some time. But when I went to the bookstore for one of those two, David and Goliath caught my eye. I’ve heard this story my whole life. And while it was meant to be encouraging, I could never overcome the fear that I would never have been as fearless as David. As much as I want to do good in the world, I would never put my countries freedom on the line for my ability to do anything. If I had, we would surely have become part of a new nation. But after reading this book, I’ve found myself with a new perspective. It’s not that David used a set of knowledge he had never before had to defeat a giant of exceeding strength. It’s that he fought in a way no one expected him to. He took his skills from shepherding, from defeating lions from a distance with a sling and a rock to save a sheep, to the battle field. David knew sword fighting would get him nowhere. He knew Goliath was larger and stronger, but he knew he was faster and could fight from a distance – a skill Goliath did not possess. So while the crowds and his competitor expected him to march down the hill for battle, he simply finished the battle before it began. In a way, he cheated, but no one ever said there were rules.
I find this incredibly applicable to many of the patients we see at The George Center. These incredible people with different needs are constantly underestimated and consequently, often underachieve. And as a society, that is our fault. We’ve decided that there is a way you must learn. A way you must interact. A way you must communicate. A way you must present yourself and the list goes on and on. But ‘a’ is the problem. It’s singular. And that’s why I love what I do. We get to offer a variety of opportunities every day for people to express themselves, to communicate, to move their bodies, and to explore who they are without ever being judged. We get to take the medium of music and make it an avenue that allows everyone to participate in developmentally appropriate skills in a way that is comfortable and meaningful to them. It doesn’t just meet them for therapy, it takes their preference and voice into account and allows them to achieve things that others did not believe possible for the underdog. If you take the time to look, to attend an Any Dream Will Do, a Rock Band Concert, or any other event, what you will find is that there isn’t even an underdog at all.
Gladwell, M. (2013). David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. New York City, NY: Back Bay Books.