Humans have always been intrigued by individuals who have done extraordinary things or achieved elite levels of success. How did they attain the seemingly unattainable? I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which gave me quite a few ideas to consider about individuals that have achieved amazing success in their lives or careers. These individuals are not so different from the intelligent, motivated, hard-working people that many of us are. In his book, Gladwell discusses that the situation that some people are born into, plays a great part into what they are able to achieve. One example sited in the book was that while attending a National Hockey League event, Gladwell’s wife noticed in the program that most of the players had birth dates in the months of January, February or March. After doing research on this phenomenon, Gladwell learned that this was a result of the age cut off in youth hockey programs. Kids born in these months were bigger than their team members. They won more, and through the years, had more opportunity for practice. A greater number of kids with this advantage, advanced to the NHL.
Gladwell studied may professions and learned that the individuals that were experts in their field had practiced their craft for 10,000 hours. He noted that 10,000 hours generally took an expert 10 years to achieve. If you are a seven year-old hockey player born in January, with better opportunity for practice, you could reach 10,000 hours by age seventeen.
Gladwell discovered and researched other types of advantages as well. He learned why so many of the top lawyers were Jewish males born in the Bronx in the mid 1930’s to immigrant parents and that the construction of Asian languages gives an advantage to the speakers when learning mathematics. These are just a couple advantages that Gladwell presents.
I started to contemplate my own circumstances beyond my control. Do I have any advantages that I can capitalize on? Generation X, mid-west raised youngest child of middle class conservative parents are circumstances that have played a part in determining the person that I am. With reflection, I realize that this background heavily influenced my well-grounded, common sense approach to life and the fact that I am quite open to trying new things or adventures. From the point of view of my HR career, openness to change is a very useful trait, since the ability to change, and facilitate change in others is essential for an organization’s success.
What are your circumstances? What were the challenges or benefits you experienced that made you who you are today? How can you translate this information into strengths that employers are looking for? Showcasing who you are to employers could be just what sets you apart from other candidates. From an organization’s point of view, it is much more effective to hire for personality and train for skill.
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