For those of you who have already read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, then you already know everything you need to know about your child’s education and future success. If you haven’t, this is a snap picture of what he has found out about the patterns and behaviours of ‘Outliers,’ people out of the norm based on intelligence, success and physical prowess, based on extensive research and some lateral thinking.
1. Being the oldest in the class is a Good Thing.
A study done by two economists found that an older child who was tested against a younger child in the same class with comparable intellect would score higher than the younger child, which can make a huge difference in getting into gifted programs. Therefore, the oldest child will be put in an ‘advanced program’ which will in turn encourage his/her skills and they will do better than the younger child. Over time, these differences will become big differences which will have a big impact. He uses the example of Junior League Hockey in Canada and the physical superiority January children have over later born children to illustrate that a whole year matters and when you are born matters. (Many NHYMs I know already have the birthdate of their child planned before pregnancy so they are well ahead of me; https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/07/24/notting-hill-nurseries-the-rise-of-the-notting-hill-yummy-mummy/).
2. Hard Work and the 10,000 hour rule.
Most of us have heard of the 10,000 rule already, but it re-enforces that hard work will get you ahead. The best chess players and the best musical prodigies are the ones who put in more time in their art than anyone else. Gladwell looked at a study that showed that once a musician has the talent to get into a top music school, what distinguished the world famous musician versus the rest is the amount of time dedicated to his music. Studies done all show that 10,000 hours of practice are needed to achieve ‘expert’ level at any one complex task, which equates to years of hard work. It takes this amount of time for the brain to process and assimilate expertise and mastery. I clearly remember a friend who was an All American sports player whose parents told me that he would spend hours kicking his ball, all day and every day, which is how he became so good. So get practicing.
Gladwell uses the example of Bill Gates who as a teenager was lucky enough to have a computer in his high school in the 60s. This was considered ‘amazing.’ Most universities didn’t have computers yet, so here he was given an opportunity to play with computers and start programming before any of his peers were able to. This was his opportunity, which enabled him to get ahead of the rest of the world. It was his obsession and he used the 10,000 hour rule to become a world expert. Gladwell states that all outliers benefit from some kind of extraordinary opportunity. So, this is what you can give your children: opportunities. Then it is up to them to take these opportunities or not.
4. Oxbridge and the Ivy Leagues are not the answer to everything.
I hear all around me mothers who are obsessed with their children going to Oxbridge or an Ivy League University. To them, this is their definition of educational success. Yes, the Ivys and Oxbridge open a lot of doors, but they are not going to predict where your child will end up in life. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, he clearly did not need a university degree to succeed. To most, universities will help them succeed, but a good university is good enough. Gladwell takes the last 25 Americans to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and in Medicine and many did not go to the ‘best’ universities, but to ‘good enough’ universities. Many I had never even heard of. The argument is that you would rather have your child at the top of his class at a ‘good’ university, rather than bottom of the class at ‘Oxbridge/Ivy.’ Similarly to point one, the person at the ‘lesser’ university may get more opportunities.
5. Luck Matters.
Being at the right place at the right time is something we can’t predict. Some opportunities are based on luck. Nothing else. And there is nothing you can do about that apart from teaching your child about Good Karma.
6. A Genius IQ won’t guarantee anything.
Studies have shown that an IQ of 115 is necessary to get into a competitive graduate program and to succeed at it. This is probably what most of my peers are hoping for their children. But much above this IQ won’t guarantee very much. An IQ above 120 doesn’t correlate with personal success. It shows that intelligence has a threshold. For example, a scientist with an IQ of 130 is just as likely to win a Nobel Prize as one with an IQ of 180. It is like the Money and Happiness threshold. After a certain threshold, the amount of money you have does not have an impact on your happiness. Success is more than just to do with IQ, it also requires a lot of ‘Practical Intelligence.’ Practical Intelligence can be described as ‘knowing what to say to who, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it with maximum impact.’
7. What you do as a parent has an impact.
Practical intelligence has a lot to do with what kind of family you were raised in. A study looking at different kinds of families found that two sets of parenting ‘philosophies’ emerged, which were separated by class lines; the wealthy families and the poorer families. Middle class and wealthier parents talked things through and taught their children how to reason. They allowed their children to challenge them, negotiate with them, and question them. They called the middle class style of parenting as ‘concerted cultivation’ which actively ‘fosters and assess a child’s talents, opinions and skills.’ Lower class parents let their children develop on their own, and had less involvement in their schooling and extra-curricular activities. (Of course over-parenting, as I’ve mentioned before, can turn your child into a stress and anxiety ridden child, which is not a good thing either! https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/06/26/quote-of-the-day-but-mummy-only-daddies-work/)
8. Supportive Parents Lead their Children.
What you do and what environment you provide your child affects everything she/he will do in the future. I remember growing up and seeing my father surrounded by books and encyclopedias. This taught me that books were interesting and how to be curious. My mother listened to classical music and painted. Even though back then, these were not my chosen subjects or tastes, they were indelibly inscribed in my brain, and I have come to love books, Wikipedia, Tschostakovich, and Art. Middle and upper middle class children’s homes are filled with books, their parents have college educations, they present themselves well and dress appropriately. This is teaching your child practical intelligence; how to interact appropriately with the real world. How to assess and address problems, how to speak up when necessary, and how to learn to manage other people appropriately.
9. Be Aware of Your Cultural Background.
This comes nicely to the next point that culture matters. Your cultural background matters. Gladwell looked at Airplane accidents from a Korean airline and found that 1st Officers wouldn’t assert themselves against their Captains, which caused a number of airplane crashes. (It did however show that American culture is an affirmative one, as many flight officers would be intimidated by the JFK air controllers. New York is one of the most affirmative cities in the world in my opinion). I have already opined about Jews and their cultural impact in another post and we have all heard about ‘Tiger Moms’ of American Chinese descent, so think about your culture’s pros and cons and address them if possible when raising your child.
10. Perseverance Counts.
This theme is weaved throughout the book, ‘Outliers.’ Working hard, and working at what you do takes time and perseverance to succeed. It is about using failures as a lesson towards success. Entrepreneurs’s personality traits always include ‘perseverance.’ It is a ‘constant personal evolution (Huffington Post).’ Learning to fail is just as important as succeeding. So whatever your child puts their mind to, be there to support them and let them fail along the way.