What Makes for Brilliant Success in a Person?

10,000 hours of serious attention to one’s craft? Is that the number?  Yes. it’s what author Malcolm Gladwell  references as the minimum necessary if one is to become an ‘Outlier.

If that were the sole ingredient necessary, in the world of writing, I’d be ‘there, already,’ for I’ve been writing for years. But it’s not.  That many hours of practice at one’s craft is never the sole factor delineating success…

You’ll hear reference to that figure all around, today, on the talk-show circuit.  Of course, those who say it omit the other major contributing factors author Gladwell mentions as playing a role in those who achieve the heady success of a Bill Gates  or the Beatles…..

Did you know that, for instance, “Almost no star athletes are born in the fall?” That’s right, parents, if you want a hockey star, then you’d better work on that conception date, for it matters greatly.  Something about league entry by birthdate and earlier maturation for those born in the early months of any given year, combined with the fact these bigger hockey players get drafted into bigger leagues where they get more and better training. Everything hinges on that all-important birth date.

When are most hockey stars born?  January…If your kid’s birthdate is in August or October, he or she is decidedly “up against it.” It’s not just about inate talent.

And this factor presages success in school too, where brain maturation matters (so kids born in later months of the year are at another decided disadvantage and don’t do as well as classmates born in earlier months.)

(Psssttt!  Don’t tell my older little men that they’re ‘up against it’ because they were born in May, while their little brother in photo to the left has decided advantage, for he was born in that sweet zone–January.  He could become a star hockey player!)

The book is Outliers, and it’s a fascinating read, for it purports to show the conditions that usually operate to produce people who achieve well beyond the norm. According to Gladwell, we, as a society. focus far too much on intelligence, ambition, and personality of super-achievers.

We should look, instead, at those stellar performers’ culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.  Super-achievers were raised by families that provided their basic needs; their upbringing allowed them access to tools and people they needed; some had families with pronounced expertise in specific fields (like Jewish merchants).  Children in those families enjoyed a decided leg up in entrepreneurial industries.

Asian and Jewish children are raised with a work ethos that hard work equals success. Long hours at work are the rule in life; they’re never the exception. Asian young expect to work hard for whatever they achieve and they’ve seen this work ethic in play throughout their childhood (Gladwell references their rice paddy experience and how they all work together for the common good.)

Could be why the children of these groups perform so well in math and the sciences.  Quite simply, they work at it.

So, success is no accident and brilliant success arises out of a commingling of forces that allow for such achievement.  But all the factors must be in place. Then, when all those factors come together, LUCK is the magic ‘other’ ingredient all the superstars enjoyed.  When the challenge presented, they were ready and they responded. But the opportunity was a lucky break for them..

The Beatles didn’t just bring a different sound to the world…Bill Gates didn’t just bring computer programming to a whole new level.  There were definable reasons why they attained the level of success that they did.

As Outliers, they recognize:  They never got there alone.

***Now, if you’ve got a potential hockey ‘great’ (meaning he or she is born in January), get the little tyke out there, on the ice. And tell us if Gladwell’s formula stating that kids born in the early months of the year do better than peers born later, plays out in your immediate group.

The group shots are of daughter and husband bringing our little men to hockey practice on Sundays…Parents need to know they’ve only got a real shot with one of them achieving hockey ‘great’ status…So, is it worth all the effort? (One of the kids–lying on the ice- apparently doesn’t think so…and watching him at practice, I could feel his pain.)

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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