"Everybody roots for David. Nobody roots for Goliath." Wilt Chamberlain
We all have a Goliath that we eventually must kill as a metaphor for defeating the weakness within ourselves. For whether Goliath is a giant warrior or is an insecurity that bedevils us from within, he must be defeated for us to move forward in our lives.
David was a small boy and nobody believed in him. He had no idea how he was going to defeat the marauding giant, but he knew somebody had to step up to the plate. David knew that he could not win by matching strength against strength, so he changed the terms of the battle. He wore no armor, carried no sword but still won the day. He changed the rules to fit HIS strengths. He lured Goliath into the open where he had a clear view of him and then killed him with a simple sling and rock. Again, David changed the terms of the battle to suit his strengths.
Another great example of this is the famous Sugar Ray Leonard/Roberto Duran fights. Leonard fought Duran three times in his career and I remember each time clearly because I was a huge fan of Leonard's. Sugar Ray was faster and more accurate with his flurries of punches than anybody I had ever seen. I watched him in the 1976 Olympics and then followed him as he turned pro.
Roberto Duran was a brute-force puncher. He would beat people so badly that he often ruined their careers. He was mean and strong and he was very good. Everyone wondered if Sugar Ray could stand up to him.
On June 20, 1980, they met in the ring for the first time. It was obvious as the fight wore on that Sugar Ray had chosen to stand toe-to-toe with Duran and fight Duran's fight. There was no dancing, no fancy footwork, just an epic slugfest that Leonard lost by a wide margin.
The rematch was in November of 1980. This became one of the most famous fights ever because Leonard came into the ring and changed the rules on Duran. Duran was expecting a repeat of the first fight while Leonard used his own strengths instead of fighting Duran's fight. Sugar Ray danced and hit and so thoroughly confused and disoriented Duran that Duran threw up his hands and quit in the middle of the eighth round, yelling "No mas" (No more) to the referee. Leonard found he could not win by playing by the rules that Duran set, so he changed the rules to fit his strengths. David beat Goliath.
We can do the same thing in business.
Ben and Jerry's makes awesome, decadent incredible ice cream. I know this because I ate a LOT of it before I gave up deserts in 2002. Anyway, Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen began Ben and Jerry's in a converted gas station in Vermont on May 5, 1978. Their investment was a whopping $12,000, with $4,000 of it borrowed.
The ice cream shop was a huge hit and in 1983 they started selling through independent distributors. By 1984, they had more than $7 million in annual sales. That same year, Goliath (played by Haagen Dazs - owned by Pillsbury) had enough of the upstart David (Ben and Jerry's).They were tired of having their sales eaten away (pun intended) by the little guy. So Pillsbury tried to use their size and weight to force Ben and Jerry's out of business. Pillsbury threatened punishment against any distributor that carried Ben and Jerry's.
Ben and Jerry's of course filed an antitrust lawsuit against Pillsbury, but there was a problem. They were going to run out of money to fight the battle long before the war was over.
So they changed the rules. More specifically, they chose different terrain on which to fight. The legendary Chinese strategist Sun Tzu felt that governing the terrain and choosing the battlefield were two of the most important jobs of a commander. Ben and Jerry took the battle out of the courts and used one of marketing's most iconic figures against them. Ben and Jerry began selling bumper stickers that said "What is the Doughboy afraid of?". This evoked images in the public's mind that were the antithesis of all the Pillsbury Doughboy was supposed to represent.
Thousands of the bumper stickers began appearing on the east coast along with a tremendous amount of free publicity for the smaller company. Haagen Dazs sales tanked and Ben and Jerry's sales skyrocketed. Pillsbury finally caved and agreed to end their blockade of Ben and Jerry's products.
Both the Sugar Ray Leonard and the Ben and Jerry's case studies prove without a doubt that David can still defeat Goliath. However, in order to do so, David has to do the following:
1. Recognize that he can't fight Goliath on Goliath's terms,
2. Recognize where his own strengths lie,
3. Change the terrain to suit his own strengths,
4. Change the rules to benefit his particular skills.
And finally, David has to be in a position to act in a decisive manner when Goliath finally moves into the open and exposes his weaknesses.
“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” - Sun Tzu