Caring for the Underdog

Caring for the Underdog January 25, 2024

Who or What is an Underdog
Harry Potter Story | Unsplash

The word underdog was originally used in dogfighting around 1887, to refer to a dog defeated in a fight. Anyone who is at a disadvantage, whether in general or in a particular situation, is said to an underdog.

In sports or any in a competition, the person or team considered to be the weakest and the least likely to win it’s common to call the team that’s expected to lose in a game the underdog.

Cambridge dictionary indicates that it refers to a person or group of people with less power, money, etc., than the rest of society. The term undergo can also apply  to a person in adversity or in a position of inferiority.

Generally, in fiction or in movies, we root for the underdog because it is usually a character that we can identify with. We feel empathetic towards them since they are not superstars, but are somehow like us. They often seem to have the same problems in reel life as we have in real life, face the same challenges we face and possess the same disadvantages we possess.

That is why we can resonate with a Cinderella or a Harry Potter, for seeing them overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve success gives us a sense of optimism and faith in humanity. They create in us an emotional connect that blesses us with hope to face the same in reality and in actuality.

Yet, in the work world of today, in the current fast-paced work life, in a context of a rat race of sales scenario, and such like, we prefer a top dog since there is a guarantee of success and an assurance of goal realization.

However, Davis Golds, Engineer and Speaking Coach, declares that when we invest ourselves in the story of an underdog, we become emotionally invested in their success.

A Real-life Example

Being rejected | Freepik

There was this guy who asked to be in my team for two reasons. One, he wanted to be part of the task we were handling. Two, he desired to be part of the team since few of them had become his friends. If people chose to be part of my group and request to be part of it, I generally will accept. I will check with their previous group head for an assessment, but will still take them in considering it a privilege that they chose to be under me. I may or may not have reservations about them, but would wait to see their progress.

Now this guy did not come with any great recommendations or experience, and he was quite new to it all. I was told that he may not measure up to standards. When I interacted with him, however, I sensed that he was one who had potential and content. I saw him as a raw recruit who could go either way and I would need to go the extra mile to train him. If he did not disapprove others’ negative report, I could end up with a question mark against my leadership. He was a risk to undertake.

Yet, I took him up and made him part of my team for two reasons – one, he was not tricky type of person but one with pure heart; two, I love a challenge, especially where everyone says it can’t be done. Call it my perversity if you want, but if it is said this is impossible, that’s when my hackles rise. I will take up the dare just to prove otherwise, more so if it is regarding a person!

It was not easy handling him for he was a live wire, very enthusiastic with high level of energy that would often exhaust me. Keeping him in line without getting unduly upset or angry was a challenge.

To correct without breaking his spirit, to encourage experimentation without damage to others, to rein in his high hopes without destroying his outlook was an additional task over and above the project demands. What kept me going was the fact that someone chose to do that for me, paving the way for to be recognized as a leader.

The Easy Way

Michelangelo Marble Sculpture

It is very easy to take a top dog and polish him up or display him or her as a trophy of your skill. That is what is usual everywhere and leaders generally tend to be wary of the underdog. It doesn’t take much to polish a diamond with the right shaping and setting, but it tests your mettle to recognize a coal can be made into a diamond and be the furnace that would bring that transformation. It is easy to take a student with 80% marks and give the teaching and training to achieve centum, but to take a 50% or even a just pass case and make them achieve 90-100% is costly and time-consuming.

We often take the easy way for that is the seemingly smart thing to do. Yet, if the Lord had thought of any of us like that, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

A story is told of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor and painter of all times. His teacher presented his class with a piece of exquisite marble and asked them what they saw. Everyone commented on the texture, shape, size, its pristine color and other aspects or attributes of the stone. Michelangelo said, I see an angel in it. His master’s reply: Go and release it!

That’s what confronts us when we meet people or are given a team to lead. To become a master craftsman is to have insight to see through the exterior of words, conduct, appearance and shortcomings and penetrate to the core.

It is to draw out the hidden talents of the person, give room for errors, take responsibility for any damage that ensues and patiently endure even ridicule from your peers. It is a patient carving of a soul through the chisel of correction and the soft tapping by the mallet of discipline, taking care not to damage the costly marble – the precious human spirit.

The Biblical Example
David and Goliath | Pinterest

David, the shepherd boy, was an underdog in the family. Born in a family of 11 (his father Jesse had 8 sons and 3 daughters), he was given the most in important task of all – acting for the sheep. When there was an important occasion, Prophet Samuel’s visit to his home, he wasn’t even thought to be important enough to be called home to be part of the feast. Samuel had to specifically ask for him before he was sent for. Yet this one, who was considered the most insignificant of all, was the one God chose to become king over the nation.

Beloved by God, the Psalmist of Israel, he became the forerunner of the true Shepherd of Israel, Jesus Christ.

Slayer of a giant, Goliath, a mighty man of valor, worshipper par excellence, he rose to be the best ruler of all and henceforth, to be known as of his lineage was considered an honor and a privilege.

God saw the underdog and picked him up to be His own shepherd for the nation. Through him the country became consolidated and a power to be reckoned with. God saw his heart that was oriented towards Him and passionate for His glory and he earned the divine favor.

The Challenge to Leaders

Shutterstock image

A leader must be sensitive enough to be able to look beyond the outside to recognize the potential within. It is important for leader to develop intuition and discernment to be able to pick a gem hidden in a covering of dirt and then work hard to scrape away until it’s worth is seen.

To be a leader, one must not reject, even when there is rhyme and reason, but be quick to identify, single out and nurture the underdog.

The guy I was speaking about rose to the occasion and proved his accusers and doubters wrong. He grew to be worthy of a team and I recommended him to be made a leader. What touched me much was his willing submission, ability to listen to reason, take correction and bounce back even from confrontation with renewed vigor and strength.

He is one whom I consider a feather in my cap and I am always proud to refer to him as an example of what acceptance and care can do.

To identify potential and input for it to be released is exhilarating!

To care for the underdog is any day rewarding and refreshing!

In the world of today, where apoearance, and outward mein is given so much importance, may wr be different and distinguished in our manner and demeanour!


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