I was reading the well known story of David and Goliath. "You are too young and inexperienced" is what King Saul said to David when the latter wanted to challenge Goliath.
And it was true, IF David had tried to engage Goliath in a conventional sword fight. But David changed the rules. He didn't approach Goliath as a warrior. He approached him as a shepherd. He introduced an unconventional method of warfare: the slingshot. That long-range weapon gave David a unique advantage over his more experienced opponent.
David overcame his weaknesses by playing to his strengths.
David didn't play on Goliath's terms, he played on his own terms.
Inexperience is both a liability and an asset. And the upside of inexperience is this: you don't know what can't be done. So you're not afraid of doing old things in new ways. You take risks. You make mistakes. You experiment with new methodologies.
Political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft surveyed every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths won 71.5% of the time. But when the Davids chose an unconventional strategy, their winning percentage was 63.6%. In other words, when Davids decide that they aren't going to play on Goliath's terms, they win two-thirds of the time.
So how do you fight in unconventional terms if you are a David? Sometimes it's substituting effort for ability. Davids need to work harder than Goliaths. Sometimes it's doing something in a new way. But the bottom line is this: you cannot fight Goliath on Goliath's terms or you will lose. You have to change the rules. You have to get unconventional.
Transformation. If you follow the rules, if you repeat the established pattern, if you "try and try again" in the same old way, you can block transformation. But the Goliath, the seemingly impossible barrier, the weight of history and opinion and expectation, can be circumvented, overcome, disabled, whatever, by thinking laterally and inventing a new way of doing things.
What has this to do with running? Everything! Especially when we are considering how younger generations can be encouraged to run, to race, to train, to compete, to seek improvement. The old ways will not work, and the old structures are not relevant. The same end results we are after: health, fitness, strength, flexibility, and a long and rewarding life, can be achieved by very different means and within very different contexts from those we are familiar with.
As times change, we "oldies" must change too. Or are we so tied to the ways we have of doing things, the old structures and institutions, that we have forgotten why these things exist?
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