Outliers – Young for Your Grade Example

I read the book “the Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell a few weeks ago and I just started the book “Outliers”. The tipping point was an absorbing read that produced a lot of good thoughts on how small, thoughtful changes in ideas can lead to major results. I just read the first chapter in Outliers and I’m immediately stunned by how this chapter could have affected my life. The general gist of the chapter is that athletes born closer to the cut off date of a league have a higher chance of success than those born later. The example in the book looks at how a hockey league’s cut off date for players is January 1st and how the majority of the team’s players have birthdays in the first 3 months of the year. The guy born on Jan 1st will be the oldest player in the league is where the idea lies. Meaning the earlier month birthday are the older, more mature athletes who develop early and than seem to get the most coaching because of this. These types of athletes seem to have the best chance at future success.

I think about this topic and how Gladwell stresses that this important component is a huge factor in the development of a human being. Here’s another example to make the point clearer. A student of exactly 5 years old and a student of exactly 4 years old are in a kindergarten together learning the same material. With an extra year of maturation the 5 year old will perform better than the 4 year old for the reason that he’s one year older. Since they are in the same class the 5 year old appears smarter through maturation. In turn he receives more attention and gets put into gifted programs whereas the 4 year old lags behind at no fault of his own intelligence but the mere fact that he’s younger and less educated in life. The 5 year old also seems bigger, faster, and stronger so he gets more opportunity from coaches in sports than the 4 year old. It’s only one year difference but at such a young age this type of attention starts to create a snowball effect. More time is spent with the older student preparing him whereas the 4 year old is dismissed as slow.

This relates to myself personally in a number of ways that I haven’t even thought about until this day. My birthday is Nov 6th of 1983. I don’t know when the cut off was for whatever grade I was in but I was always one of the youngest students in my grade. I carried this with me through my entire education. It doesn’t seem like it makes a big difference but I think this could be an obvious reason for why I was always one of the smallest kids in my grade until junior year of high school when I finally had a growth spurt. Just to compare athletics with my brother Jeff (birthday Jan 3rd ((the ideal birthday)) and I’m using him because we are family), I was a full 10 months behind in a maturation and his times were significantly better than mine. I don’t doubt he worked harder and had better coaching to boot but it’s the facts.

I just wonder how much this seemingly small decision of deciding to throw me into school early instead of holding me back a year would have altered my life. If I were taking all my tests with an entire extra year of life under my belt if things would have been different for me. My entire life would have been drastically changed if my parents decided to hold me back. I will acknowledge though that I played athletics with the right age group for travel and was never a standout star so I’m not sure how much it really comes into play. Fascinating material though to know that there are studies proven that back up this idea.