Lately, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the recommendation of the headmaster of Alice and Wendy’s school. It’s an interesting read with some pretty interesting studies on the factors that go into success. In many cases, those factors might be initially unexpected (such as being born early in the year makes you a better hockey player), but when the reasons for the somewhat unexpected factors are examined, they suddenly become more obvious.
I’m only about halfway through the book, but so far the theories of Outliers confirm my overall beliefs about success in life being a lot like success at the poker table. It’s a combination of luck, talent and hard work (Glenn will appreciate this, I’m sure). There is no doubt that poker is a game of skill. It’s also very obviously a game of luck. The skill comes in minimizing losses during unlucky times and maximizing gains during periods of luck so as to come out ahead in the long term.
In life, we’re all dealt unlucky hands from time to time. We’re also presented with lucky opportunities. These things we have little control over. It’s how we handle them that matters. Opportunities come and go. Many people don’t recognize these opportunities, or are too lazy to take advantage of them. They’d rather focus on the unlucky times. They’re unlikely to be successful. Those who minimize their losses in the unlucky times, recognize the opportunities and work hard to take advantage of them are the ones who will be the most successful.
That’s really a brief and somewhat poor summary of what I’ve already read. The book’s examples are descriptive and fun to read. I’m sure that for every example Gladwell produces one might be able to produce a counter example, but it’s a good read nonetheless.
Sometimes when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wish I would just win the lottery. Then I could do whatever I wanted. I could travel around the world, stay at the luxury resorts with the extraordinarily comfortable mattresses and the 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Then I remember a dream I had when I was in high school and Volleyball was such a large part of my life.
It was a time when vampires were popular in culture due to movies like the Lost Boys and Interview with the Vampire – much like the vampire buzz that now surrounds Twilight. I dreamed that I was vampire. It was a really realistic dream. I felt it. I was suddenly lightning fast, incredibly strong and I could jump as high as I wanted. I was the king of the volleyball court. In time I grew depressed. I successful and kicking butt and nobody knew that I was a vampire – but I knew. I knew I hadn’t earned my success and it was no fun. In the dream I quit the volleyball team and spent my time watching from the bleachers wishing I wasn’t a vampire. I woke up glad I was just normal Brian.
I guess my point is that the journey is half (or more) of the fun. It can be hard to remember when you’re in the unlucky times – you’re injured, out of work, or just spinning your wheels – but a victory earned through hardship is so much sweeter than one that is handed to you by default.