Ingredients of an Outlier

An Outlier is something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body OR a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.

For the past 2 years I have had a book called ‘Outliers… The story of Success’ sat on my shelf. Written by Malcolm Gladwell, this book has been recommended to me by several people but only until recent I have made the time to read it…and I wish I had done it 2 years ago!

Call it luck, fate, fortune or coincidence but these are some of the ingredients of an Outlier, or someone who has achieved exceptional things in their life. The book looked at numerous exceptional achievers, their upbringing, parental guidance, financial background, intelligence quotient (IQ), where they grew up and many other influential circumstances. People like Bill Gates and pop legends like The Beatles all have attributing factors that have align to realise their success. What fascinates me is that in a world of endless opportunities, why do a few stand miles above others.

This book got me thinking about a lot of things but one of the major messages I got was that success cannot be achieved alone and opportunities are essential. Many people know of the Bill Gates story so I will try and make it brief, as this is a great example of being fortunate to have opportunities. Gates was successful because in 1968 he was taken out of the public schooling system and started the 7th Grade at a private school in Seattle.

Coincidently, that year the school started a computer club which was funded by the ‘mothers club’ fundraising. Most colleges didn’t even have a computer but the computer they had was also one of the most advanced of its time, so Bill Gates got to start programming from a young age on the best machine.

Then Gates had a rare opportunity to access free computer time at the University of Washington because a mother of one of the children at his school was able to present this opportunity, so his evenings and weekends involved hours or programming.

After this he access more free computer time in exchange for working on a piece of payroll software. In one 7-month period, Gates and his cohorts ran up 1575 hours of computer time which equates to 8 hours a day for 7 days a week! Due to Gates huge amount of experience of programming, in his senior years of High School he was asked to work on some software for a power station.

All of this experience was gained within a 5-year period in an era when computer time was expensive and there was scarce access. The opportunities Gates got were incredible and this allowed him to drop out of his first year at Harvard and set up a little company called Microsoft!

This story isn’t uncommon to other achievers, for example, the opportunities Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray were given and the support from their family, but opportunities are not enough!

I some paths of life, intelligence will enhance your opportunities of success but it is also known that super intellect does not equal super success.

From what I observe in tennis and those I know who have also gone on to be top performers in their sport, without the support of parents, coaches, schools etc. who present these opportunities and enable the players to train and compete, then their opportunity to be better tennis players is immediately compromised.

The chance of every junior tennis player being fortunate to have the support, financial assistance and access to facilities is something they should be grateful for as millions of others don’t have this fortune. BUT by being one of the fortunate few, that is not enough and there are two key ingredients missing that no one can give you! They are called HARD WORK and PERSERVERANCE.

Like with Bill Gates at his machine, David Beckham taking free kicks and Nadal on the practice court not even stopping for water, those who choose to fight to become better will and no one is born great or as a good tennis player.

By putting in hours and making sacrifices like successful people do, players may not be rewarded immediately but one day their time will come and then they’ll appreciate how lucky they are to be given the opportunity to fulfil their dreams!

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