Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At my first staff meeting with my interns yesterday, I mentioned some information from the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell describing how opportunity works.

I told them: age matters. You are at the right time in history with the right opportunities to direct the future of news. On the flip side - you have to define what happens next in news, you have to be a part of it, or you won't have a job.

In a little more detail, interns and friends, here is the information. P.S. - I highly recommend reading this book.

"Historians start with Cleopatra and the pharoahs and comb through every year in human history ever since, looking in every corner of the world for evidence of extraordinary wealth, and almost 20 percent of the names they end up with come from a single generation in a single country." - Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Immediately prior, Gladwell had explained that 14 of the 75 richest people in the history of the world were born within nine years of each other in the mid-nineteenth century.

So what gives? These people, Gladwell tells us, made their fortunes in the 1860s and 1870s, when the railroads - and Wall Street - were being built, when economics were being remade. What this list tells us, he says, is that it really matters how old you were when the transformation happened.

"If you were born in the late 1840s you missed it. You were too young to take advantage of the moment. If you were born in the 1820s you were too old; your mind-set was shaped by the pre-Civil War paradigm. But there was a particular, narrow nine-year window that was just perfect for seeing the potential that the future held." In a footnote, he adds that this is also the only period in American history when those born in modest circumstances had a shot at this kind of wealth.

Gladwell goes on to apply the same analysis to computer technology. The biggest date in the personal computer revolution was January 1975. "If you were more than a few years out of college in 1975, then you belonged to the old paradigm. You'd just bought a house. You were married. ... So let's rule out all those born before, say, 1952.

"At the same time, you don't want to be too young. You really want to get in on the ground floor, right in 1975, and you can't do that if you're still in high school. So let's also rule out anyone born after, say, 1958. The perfect age to be in 1975, in other words, is old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you've missed it. Ideally, you want to be 20 or 21, which is to say, born in 1954 or 1955."

This range - 1952-1958 with a focus on those middle years - describes Bill Gates (1955), Microsoft's co-founder Paul Allen (1953), Steve Ballmer of Microsoft (1956), Steve Jobs (1955), Eric Schmidt of Novell and later CEO of Google (1955), and Bill Joy, computer legend, writer of much of the underlying code for the internet (1954).

1 comment:

Blasé said...

ok, are you trying to push those walls apart or something??