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Books

Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell: The Role Of Timing And Historical Context In Future Success

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The role models in our lives tend to be objectively successful people, otherwise there would be no reason to bat an eye. Whether they are a famous athlete, celebrity or innovative entrepreneur, they are all lost likely near or at the top of their respective fields. There is a clear depiction of a man vs society conflict in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers that helps reveal the theme of correct timing and historical context leading towards future success. People don’t make it to the top on their own, but to know how they made it start to look not at the individual, but beyond them.

During chapter 1 of Outliers, it begins by discussing two Canadian youth hockey teams that were made of a very elite group of players. But how did these players rise to this level of elite youth hockey? All you had to do was look at the player rosters of both teams to find the answer. In January, February, and March, there seemed to be a staggering number of players born. Vice versa, during October and December there were very few players on both teams. The explanation for this phenomenon is simple if you understand youth sports. It is all a result of the cutoff date for age-class hockey which is January 1st. This is significant because of the scouting process that takes place during big years of physical development of youth hockey players. Think of the difference between someone who is almost 11 years old and contrast that to another kid that just turned 10.

The scouts for elite teams will tend to watch the larger, older and more coordinated players who make an impression at a young age. Thus, they will move to a better team, reap better coaches, and have more opportunities to practice and because of this snowball effect of opportunities the older players end up becoming the better players. This societal factor proved to be a major hindrance towards players of equal talent, but due to the unfortunate happenstance of being born in latter months may never make it.

The idea presented that when you were born matters towards your future success is also displayed when observing the 75 richest people of all time. 20% of the names on the list are people from a single generation in a single country while the others are spread thinly throughout human history. It was in America during the 1860’s and 1870’s where these men can be found. From Rockefeller to J.P. Morgan and all the other billionaires of the time had one common trait they collectively possessed; being born around the year 1835. If you were born in the late 1840’s you missed it, being too young to be able to take advantage of the moment. With the mindset shaped by an antebellum paradigm, being born in 1820’s made you too old. What was so special about the 1835 birthdays is that during the 1860’s and 1870’s the American economy experienced the greatest transformation in its history. All this happening when these men are at the perfect age to seize the opportunity, making it the best time in human history to make an immense amount of money. Every man on that list had vision and talent but they were also awarded a golden opportunity from a society that allowed them to be successful thanks to the year they were born. 

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