“And when the Philistine, taking note, saw David, he had a poor opinion of him: for he was only a boy, red-haired and good-looking.”― 1 Sam. 17:42 [BBE]
2016 saw a world wonder happening in the English Premier League. A football team, after 132 years of its existence, made a striking statement that contrasted predictions of even their die-hard fans. Leicester City had only been promoted to the premier league in 2014 and almost drowned into relegation in 2015. Starting the 2015/2016 season as the least tipped to win the coveted league title, they beat all odds to emerge winners― to everybody’s awe!
It sounded odd initially that Leicester City would ever sit at the top of the league table one day because they came across as a weak side but at the end of the day, they became everybody’s favorite. Between a weak side and a strong one is an undying determination to move forward despite the setbacks.
There’s nothing as amazing as consistent losers surprising everyone to grab the top spot. When people who have consistently been at the bottom of life pull a surprise, it may seem like a fluke but it gets them to the top all the same. Indeed, the top spot of life has no name to it. Anybody can fill the space there.
Every top dog today was only an underdog yesterday. Every big brand today was once struggling to be recognized by the big brands of yesterday because they were also trying to find their feet. With persistence and consistence, they gradually climbed to the top, too. There’s space at the top for every underdog.
No underdog should ever look down on themselves. You may be inexperienced but that’s not enough to write yourself off. You may just be starting but you should know that all those mentors you look up to were like you only yesterday. Where you are today is a season, not an abode. Your place in life today is temporary, not permanent. Being an underdog is a journey that will soon be over.
The Bible recounts an exciting duel between David and Goliath of Gath. These two contrasting figures had different backgrounds that gave them their own peculiar advantages. However, Goliath, just like every top dog, appeared more advantaged.
David was a young, daring man whose only army was a few sheep― just a handful. He had, a few times, fought off bears and lions which had mistaken this army for lunch. The young shepherd had little or no idea about war and how deadly it could get. Saying he was inexperienced was an understatement because he had not the slightest hint of what battles were. He even rejected the king’s armory because he was too feeble to wear such; it literally weighed him down. Poor David!
Here was almighty Goliath― the only Goliath of Gath― the fighter with an unbeaten record of slaying nations and bathing in their blood. The more than six cubit tall soldier had been waging war since his youth― decades of experience right there. Clothed in a 5000 shekel worth metal, the giant had a head-dress of brass and his legs were adorned with plates of brass, too― solid protection. Hanging behind him was a javelin whose head was made of 600 shekels of iron; heavy enough to crush any bone. And… this was how fearsome Goliath looked!
Clearly, David was the underdog and Goliath, the top dog. The latter, unlike the former, was protected from the crown of his big head to the soles of his giant feet. David, aside his boring years of inexperience, was exposed to so many dangers. Like every underdog, there were so many things he didn’t know that were essential for his survival at that moment.
Underdogs appear vulnerable. There’s so much more they don’t know than they know. They are not even known. No one knew David just like many never knew Leicester City until they started inching closer to the top spot. All of such vulnerability looks like a disadvantage but therein lies the underdog’s advantage― the advantage to be underestimated.
It is easy to write off an underdog. Goliath yelled at David when he saw him walk on the battlefield with a catapult and five stones. It is easy to underestimate an underdog because they bring on the table seemingly low-quality strategies and cheap tools― but that’s their strength and your underestimation, your weakness. Leicester City FC spent £54.4m to build its winning team, almost a tithe of what most favorites spent on building theirs. The price of our strategies doesn’t necessarily mean it will fetch us the ultimate prize.
The advantage of every underdog is that they make the best out of their little; the same little the top dogs despise. Otherwise speaking, every underdog’s advantage is the top dog’s disadvantage. The big brands may prepare less when competing with underdogs because they may despise their little efforts. And… that’s when they will be surprised unfortunately.
Keep building with what you have, as an underdog. Let everybody despise your hard work but don’t join them to. When people despise you, they give you room to surprise them. There’s an inherent advantage in your nothingness. People despising it… becomes their disadvantage. You treasuring it… becomes your advantage.
Dream big but start small. Some errors are not crippling when made small. Know your strengths and make the best out of such. Know your weaknesses and work on improving such, too. Gather a little experience with the little you have. No matter how long it may take, you will not be an underdog forever. It is a phase. It shall pass.
Leicester City beating all others to make it to the top emphasized one simple statement― the weakest side always appears the strongest because the strongest don’t regard the weakest. David slaughtering Goliath lends credence to the fact that whoever underestimates an underdog does so at their own peril.
Are your competitors bullying you because you just started? Is everyone shoving you aside with a “You are inexperienced” red card? Do others look down on you because they are ahead? I wrote this with you in mind. If you are deemed as the second option all the time, this is for you. Cheer up, David. Goliath underestimates you at his own peril!
By Kobina Ansah
Kobina Ansah is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications (www.scribecommltd.com), an Accra-based writing firm. His new play is THE BOY CALLED A GIRL this July.