What factors influence when predicting a person’s success?
This is a complex question that many of us have never asked ourselves. they exist multiple causes which can work in our favor or against us in determining whether, throughout our life, we will be able to achieve certain economic and work goals.
From socio-economic background to luck, including a factor that is often not taken into account: the experience, Especially the one that we were able to acquire during our childhood.
The socio-economic context is an important factor
You don’t have to be very smart to realize that one of the important factors is the socio-economic context: If you were born into a wealthy family, you will have a better chance of receiving a better education, you will be able to spend more time studying, you will have the financial mattress and family contacts, etc.
However, if you come from a modest family, your life is a little (or somewhat) more difficult: you will likely receive less formal education, you may need to start working early to help support the family economy (May affect the hours you spend studying), and you may not be able to pay for higher education, even if you don’t lack intellectual ability, merit, and motivation.
The social elevator has been broken for decades and there are no stairs
Everything I have just explained is not a cliché: several studies carried out in Spain and published by the newspaper El País show that “the social elevator” has been damaged since the 1960s. The social elevator is the mechanism by which, in a society, the humble can climb up and see their personal economic reality significantly improved through their merits and efforts *.
This meritocratic principle seems to be called into question when analyzing the data. stressing that, if you were born poor you are much more likely to stay poor as an adult. If you were born rich, you must be doing very badly not to continue in a privileged position.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Law of 10,000 Hours
Fortunately, there are other factors that come into play in deciding whether we will be able to be successful and develop our potential. In this case, I wanted to focus on one factor that can be overlooked little: the experiences we gain during our childhood.
The following reflections are part of a conference by the Catalan economist Xavier Sala Martín, Professor at Columbia University, and who reveal to us the decisive importance of this vital step in forging certain capacities and skills that give us more chances of professional success in adulthood.
Children born in the first half of the year have an advantage
Let’s start by thinking of a curious fact. A spectacularly strong trend for no apparent reason is that in most elite sports teams, 75% of its players were born in the first semester. And, in fact, there are a small number of top athletes who were born in December. You can verify this fact for yourself by watching elite professional teams in any sport: you will notice that this trend is a constant and worrying constant.
If 50% of the world’s population was born in the first half of the year and the remaining 50% in the second half, how come elite athletes were born mostly in the first months of the year?
Malcolm Gladwell, the journalist who studied this curious phenomenon
An American journalist named Malcolm Gladwell he was one of the first to realize this question of athletes and birth months. Without being able to explain this phenomenon, investigated different sociological studies.
He finally came to a conclusion, which had nothing to do with paranormal and astrological issues. The explanation was very simple: to be sports professionals, children must have gone through the basic categories, where they train and play matches. What happens is that these basic categories are broken down by years. When kids start at age 7 or 8, they play with them in their own year. Those born in 1993 with those of 1993, those of 1994 with those of 1994, etc.
This means that children born in January 1993 and those born in December 1993 play on the same team. At these ages, a difference of one year has a big impact: those of January are bigger, stronger, more agile, smarter … and the coaches, who in addition to coaching also want to win games, end up giving January children more playing minutes and responsibilities. They are the ones who play, not only more minutes, but those who take the penalties, those who play the decisive minutes … and therefore gain more experience.
The enormous importance of the experience acquired (or not) during childhood
This dynamic is accentuated and consolidated as they progress in the basic categories: the following year, the children of January are still a year older and more experienced. With each passing year, the experience schism between the children at the beginning of the year and the children at the end of the year is greater.
Once the children grew up, for example at the age of 20, the physical differences between them disappeared. What remains is a big difference in the player experience: The kids in January were much more likely to train and play for more minutes, so they are better players (with a few exceptions, of course). At the end, these years of experience are a key factor in predicting whether one will be able to reach the elite, or not.
To achieve something, devote 10,000 hours to it
Malcolm Gladwell, after reflecting on why elite athletes are the most experienced, formulates a theory: to be very good at something we have to devote at least 10,000 hours. It takes 10,000 hours of training to be really good at something and to be able to stand out from the crowd, whether it’s programming websites, playing basketball, playing an instrument …
It is a morality applicable to any area of professional life. But there are other thoughts. For example, it occurs to me to ask a question in the air: are the sports teams in the children’s categories too focused on results? Because we can well think that a December children suffer from structural discrimination which affects their potential to develop their skills.
Educational implications: the Pygmalion effect in children
In fact, the sports field can be just that a reflection of an educational model that makes similar mistakes. When we rate children based on rigid metrics, December children are more likely to score lower.
This shouldn’t be a problem, as more effort and the passage of years should level out those little differences between students at the start of the year and those at the end. However, the Pygmalion effect it tells us that as adults we place in children certain desires and desires that can help the child agree on a healthy self-concept and learn to move forward towards certain goals and challenges, which in turn helps the child will grow. Of course, this can also be reversed: teachers who can have a negative influence on the self-conception of many “December children”.
- I invite you to learn more about the Pygmalion effect: “The Pygmalion effect: how children end up being their parents’ desires and fears”