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Malcolm Gladwell interviewed on success


I’m sitting here this morning looking at a Malcolm Gladwell interview in the Globe and Mail. Outliers: The Story of Success is his new book. I’m sure it will sell in huge quantities just like Tipping Point and Blink. Everyone is obsessed with succeeding. Clearly, some of it is utter rubbish.

Can you explain why it’s no coincidence Wayne Gretzky was born in January?

Hockey players and soccer players are overwhelmingly born in the early part of the year – hugely disproportionately – and the reason is that the cutoff date for hockey and soccer around the world is Jan. 1. When people start recruiting for all-star teams and rep squads, when kids are 8 and 9 years old, they pick the kids they think are the most talented. But at that age, the most talented kids are simply the ones born closest to the cutoff date because they’re bigger and more mature. And then you give them special coaching and they play more games and they practise more, so by the time they’re 17, 18 years old, they actually are better. … Kids born in the second half of the school year also underachieve – which is why [parents] hold their kids back. What’s curious is that it persists – that you see, if you have a cutoff date for school eligibility at Jan. 1, the December-born kids are underrepresented in college admissions 15 years later. So it’s not trivial – it makes a lasting difference.

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Richard Davies

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