Underdogs in a Top Dog World Going up Against the Giants – and Winning

The Biblical narrative of David and Goliath is well known. To a lesser degree, similar events are scattered through the historical landscape. Sparta’s 300 Greeks held the giant Persian army at Thermopylae; Hannibal and his elephants defeated Roman legion after legion, and Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna in an 18-minute battle with less than half the men.

In sports, movies such as Rocky, Rudy, Seabiscuit, The Boys in a Boat, and Miracle on Ice, remind us of similar underdog scenarios. How can one forget Boston College’s Doug Flutie in 1984’s Miracle in Miami, or Joe Namath in Super Bowl III, Leicester’s 2016 Premier League win, or the 1969 Miracle Mets?

I got to thinking about stories like this last weekend watching high school volleyball in Oregon. Our 6’1” grandson, Gavin, is the Middle Blocker (Hitter) on his school’s Redmond Central, a school with 57 students. I was amazed at their progress since I last watched them, even though this time, they were playing with the big boys; i.e. large city schools like Ashland with 1,050 students, Clackamas with 1,435, and Aloha with 1,800 high schoolers. It clearly was a David and Goliath scenario. The fans went wild when Redmond won one set each against Aloha, Ashland, and Clackamas.

It is worthy to be noted that people love to root for the underdog. Recent studies suggest the reason has to do with a fundamental love of fairness and equity. When the underdog prevails, it reinforces our belief in possibilities beyond what is expected. Underdog stories captivate fans because they break norms, challenge establishments, and showcase the triumph of heart over odds. Whether it be politics, war, sports, or just about anything, real-life triumphs remind us that in life, anything is possible.

My attention was captivated by five words on the host school gym wall, which represented the school mantra: Purpose, Integrity, Determination, Respect and Excellence. Think about the little guy in BAM, and how these words should, along with others, guide our startup operation. In doing so, we little guys can disrupt the dominating narrative. David did, Jesus did, and in modern times – Bill Gates and Paul Allen did, Jeff Bezos did, Toyota did, Netflix did, Steve Jobs did, Mark Zuckerberg did, Sergey Brin and Larry Page did, and so many more – they were all once the little guy up against giants like IBM, General Motors, and Blockbuster. All of these can demonstrate the metrics of their mantra – things like Purpose, Integrity, Determination, Respect and Excellence.

These five attributes lead every BAM startup, whether a fragrance company in the Philippines, a steel band in Brazil, a leather bag company in China, a freedom business company in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia or Uganda, a nut company in Mozambique, a tourist resort in Indonesia, manufacturing groups in China, photo editing in the Philippines, poultry in Zimbabwe, a tech company in India, or English teaching in Thailand and China. Each of these BAM stories and more are told in the book Missions Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missional Professionals. Such case studies can be informative and encouraging.

They are small BAM companies, and they are operated by missional professionals. Some of them will disrupt their world some day as people take notice – in fact, some already are. Indeed, we might feel like an underdog in the midst of the sweat and stress of it all, but look for the small wins and be encouraged at every bit of progress. Annie did, James and Erica did, Don and Terri did, and the three couples in Asia did.

Annie started Nightlight, a freedom business in Bangkok in 2005, and was up against the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, human trafficking. She almost quit, succumbing to negative voices in her head. Nonetheless, thanks to Jennifer and others, she held fast to her dream. Today, more than 200 survivors are thriving/productive employees living out their faith in the workplace.

James’ friends advised him against a startup in a risky country like Cambodia. However, he weathered six years of planning to begin with five aspiring seamstresses, and a vision for keep vulnerable women from falling back into poverty. There were plenty of obstacles, and he admits “…it would be scary if we didn’t know God’s got this and that he called us to do it…”  The underdog – yes!  Small – yes!  Hard times – yes… but they held on! Today, by God’s grace, hundreds of women have been employed and rescued through their denim business, Outland Denim.

Don and Terri left a lucrative job in the US, sold all they had, and moved to one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, Mozambique. It took years of obstacles, hardship and concentrated times of prayer as they learned about exploitation, Satan’s strongholds, persecution, and pivoting over and over. Today, thousands of jobs are provided in the cashew industry, thanks to Sunshine Nut Company.

Three couples, none with business experience, have been used of God to begin and develop probably the largest BAM seaside resort in the world, blessing hundreds of people. They started by simply learning how God had wired them, listening to God, and the wisdom of good counselors and coaches. There were hurdles and challenges – with government issues, with local religious leaders, capital needs, and finding good leaders. Today, they have been on Trip Advisor’s certificate of excellence for five years – from underdog to top dog (they served humbly with lots of hard work, and promptly acknowledge God’s grace).

Cheer Up!  Look Up, remembering that it is God’s business. He might want you to be the underdog for a long time – or by God’s grace, you may eventually be top dog. Trust the boss, while never ceasing to remember Purpose, Integrity, Determination, Respect and Excellence.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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