Think social media can teach you a lot? What about hockey players?

December 10, 2009 at 11:48 PM 2 comments

I must first say that I feel like such a writer.  I’ve been finding inspiration for blog posts left and right, and it always makes me feel artsy.  Justified or not, I like the feeling.

Whatever downsides a daily commute on the “L” has, the ability to spend 40 uninterrupted minutes reading a good book every morning and evening make up for and then some.  Lately my “L” book has been Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and it has made me take a hard look at myself and my own life.

The basic premise of this book is to try to identify the indefinable qualities that make people “outliers.”  That term, I think, tends to make people think about statistics, which is exactly right.  People who are exceptionally successful or not, people who are far from average are outliers.  And Gladwell takes a good look at why.

One of his first examples is to examine professional hockey players in Canada.  The vast majority of them are born in January, February or March.  Why?  The cutoff day for peewee hockey is Jan. 1.  As kids are selected at an early age for “elite” squads, those who are born early in the year are bigger, stronger and more developed than those born in December.  These children then get the advantage of more practice and competition and eventually become the best of the best.  But it all starts with the fact that they were lucky enough to be born early in the year.

What has struck me over and over again is how much opportunity and luck have to do with success.  And just average or ordinary success.  Think Bill Gates success.  Gladwell claims that there are plenty of us who are smart enough and talented enough to be the next Bill Gates, but what we require to get there is the opportunity.

This may seem like an oversimplification, but from personal experience I believe there is great truth.  We all like to believe that what makes us special is our innate abilities and talents, but often we just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Or in the right field at the right time working for the right employer.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be an outstanding or exceptional college graduate in any sense.  I graduated with a good GPA and with some experience.  So why do I have an amazing, rewarding job six months later when plenty of peers I believe to be far more deserving still remain unemployed?

I was in the right place at the right time.

If you remember, when I first shared my new job with everyone, I mentioned that I was asked to interview the day before my internship was ending.  I left for a two-week vacation in Australia not 24 hours after my interview.  Not that I don’t work hard or produce quality work, but I don’t doubt that timing played a role.

The reason I found my passion in the first place, I think, was luck.  When I finally decided to switch from studying biochemistry in college, I happened to grab the last seat in an Introduction to Public Relations course.  The professor of that course happened to bring in Katie Paine as one of our first guest speakers.  More than once I’ve wondered where I would be if it weren’t for my professor, Dr. Craig Carroll, and Katie Paine.

Think about your own experience.  You are talented, and you work hard.  But what opportunities have really helped propel you to where you are today?


Entry filed under: Growing up, Job search, Social Media. Tags: , , .

A letter to oneself one year later — lessons from a year-long job search I claim thee, social media, in the name of…

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Teresa Basich  |  December 11, 2009 at 10:19 AM


    I think this is such a fantastic lesson for you to have learned early in your career. Having been unemployed for over a year (relatively speaking — I’m freelancing, but would love a full-time gig), I’ve spent a lot of time working on accepting the fact that my lack of a job isn’t because of me (I work my tail off), it’s because I just haven’t been in the right place at the right time yet.

    At the same time, though, so many opportunities to learn and grow have filled this year with positives.

    It can be a hard lesson to truly absorb, but a relieving one when you realize so much of what happens to us is an aligning of forces, so to speak. Right place, right time.

    Nice post. 🙂

    • 2. Rebecca Denison  |  December 11, 2009 at 10:26 AM

      Thank you for such a great comment! It’s definitely been a tough lesson to learn over the past year, and reading this book only hammered the point home. 🙂

      A big part of the book is about how successful people get those opportunities and really capitalize on them. You have to know how important (and rare!) the perfect place at the perfect time is, and you have to run with it!


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