Beware of the Underdogs (In Business as well as March Madness)

Late in the evening of March 19, 2017 an underdog did what underdogs do.  The South Carolina Gamecocks overcame huge odds to defeat the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.  For many of you this was a huge shock, but history is full of stories where the underdog has overcome many challenges to do the same.  How does this happen and what can you do to get your effort over the finish line when the odds are against you?  Let’s take a moment this morning to discuss just this subject.

The first story of an underdog winning comes from the Bible.  Most of you will remember the story of David and Goliath.  Goliath was the huge Philistine who was viewed as undefeatable on the field of battle.  David was a young shepherd who had the guts to step forward when many others would not.  History records that David took several smooth stones and slung them at the giant and killed him when they struck him in the head.  Remember this because this story gives several views into how underdogs overcome the more formidable foe.

What are the things that you, as an underdog, should consider when trying to “slay the giant”?  Let’s start with these:

  1. Even the most formidable foe, be it person or organization, has points of vulnerability.  The vulnerable areas may not be apparent at first, but they are there.  Find them.
  2. Courage and Hope are essential.  Organizations often fall back on resources such as talent, experience and financial backing for success and these are important also.  What makes the difference is the effort that is led by tireless leaders who exhibit this courage and hope, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
  3. Persistence is also a key factor.  Not every underdog wins the first battle and it is important to understand what works and what needs improvement from every battle you fight.  This reminds me of the concept of continuous improvement, a term I first learned about over 20 years ago during my automotive days.

Overcoming a major foe is challenging, difficult and often done in the face of many who say it can never be done.  Heck, even the Chicago Cubs won a World Series in 2016, so anything is possible now.

Successful underdogs find the vulnerabilities in their foe, the exhibit Courage and Hope and they are Persistent.  Use these qualities as the core principles of what you do and your ability to slay giants and leap tall buildings will greatly improve.

Who knows, you might even beat Duke.