Has anyone read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? Well if you’re pregnant or already a parent, don’t. It’s too late. There’s not much you can do about the birth date of your child now, which could possibly mean they will be on the younger end of the cut off date for sporting teams, which means their physical prowess is less than their peers, which means they don’t get picked for the best teams, which means they don’t get the better coaching and play more games, which means they’ll probably never be as good as the older kids which means they will never represent the nation at ping pong.
That’s in one of the first chapters. If you keep reading after that disheartening news, you discover that unless your child (or you for that matter) is willing to spend 10 000 hours practicing something, they’ll probably never be the best at it.
Ten thousand hours.
That’s a lot.
About the only thing Miss Q practices for any length of time right now is whinging. If you figure she does that for approximately 2 hours a day, by the time she is 13 years and 6 months old she will have completed the requisite 10 000 hours and be a professional whinger.
I can hardly wait.
Mr. Gladwell also bangs on a lot about circumstance, situation and chance, all of which can only be slightly manipulated by moi, Miss Q’s doting mother.
Apparently Bill Gates went to a hoity-toity private school somewhere in Seattle where the mother’s club fundraised for a computer room and he ended up having access to one of the first ever computer mainframe thingoh’s which gave him a seriously unfair advantage over oh, say, the rest of world. To be fair, he was also obviously a bit of a geek and did manage to complete the 10 000 hours of practice. I could have spent 10 000 hours in a computer room and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. I would have counted the weaves in the carpet before I’d discovered whatever it is Mr. Gates did.
Potentially there are thousands of Bill Gates walking around the world, but not all these Bill Gates had the same accidental circumstance as he, which meant they never became Bill Gates and stayed Jo Blow, Fred Nurk…or Little Miss Q. I mean, she could grow up next to a tennis court, but if she’s into tiddlywinks it’s not going to help her finally become the one person to smash those massive Williams sisters is it.
Outliers also talks about cultural differences and how they affect the person you become. Again, what am I meant to do about that? Squire her around the world and somehow get her to soak up only the best parts of certain cultures - the work ethic of the chinese, the manners of the Japanese, the ballsyness of the Yanks.
So having read Outliers at my brother’s request that I do so before I totally destroy my daughter’s life, I have concluded the following:
· She won’t be Bill Gates because there already is one
· I can’t do much about the fact that she’s a November baby because she’s already born
· If she wants to practice something for 10 000 hours I’m right behind her. Unless it’s archery, (that is seriously boring as a spectator) lawn bowls (ditto on the boring factor) and of course, whinging.
· I will do my best to accidentally increase her chances of success but probably not by sending her to a hoity-toity private school because we won’t be able to afford it. But I’m more than happy to start a mother’s club at the local public school and fundraise for new facilities. I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a baker.
But I tell you what I have got in limitless supply. A love for my child that surpasses all comprehension. A longing for her to be safe, content, happy and most of all kind. (Buggar the ten thousand hours, if she’s not a nice person I don’t care how many maths exams she can pass). A willingness to put in the hard yards to help her grow and flourish in whatever direction that may be. And no desire to see her live out any of the regrets I have about my own life. And you wanna know why? Because I don’t have any.
I’m a November baby too. I doubt I’ve done 10 000 hours of anything other than laugh. I went to a public school, my parents didn’t even read Outliers and I reckon my brothers and I have turned out just fine.