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Outliers Reflection Paper

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Gladwel Gladwell wrote the Outliers- The story of success, to critically examine successful individuals and determine what sets them apart from the others. In the first chapter, The Matthew Effect, Gladwel scrutinizes the hockey teams roster and finds that the A-list players were born in between the month of January and March. He takes it a step further and explains that hockey players that are born within this time are regarded as bigger, more coordinated and talented players and as such is chosen for the rep squad. These players are exposed to better coaching, teammates and is able to play thirty to fifty games more than the regular house players. They are able to practice two to three times more than the regular players, so they may not necessary be better players in the beginning, but they are being afforded much more opportunities as they are older. Gladwel states:

“…And what happens when a player gets chosen for a rep squad? He gets better coaching, and his teammates are better, and he plays fifty or seventy-five games a season instead of twenty games a season like those left behind in the “house” league, and he practices twice as much as, or even three times more than he would have otherwise. In the beginning, his advantage isn’t so much that he is inherently better but only that he is a little older”. (23)

He then goes on to state that by the time these payers are thirteen or fourteen they have already benefited from the extra coaching and game time than the others, so they are actually better at this point. This situation is not only found in sports teams but also at an educational where individuals in the came class are given a test and the older classmates score higher than the youngest. This study was done my economists Elizabeth Dhuey and KellyBedard who looked over the scores on the TIMSS and compared them to when the students were born. They found that the older students scored between four and twelve percent more than the youngest. Sociologist Robert Merton called this occurrence the “Mathew Effect” and sociologists refer to success as the “accumulative advantage”.

Accumulative advantage is the combination of opportunities that are afforded to individuals that, if taken advantage of, will enable them to be more successful than those individuals that did not have access to these opportunities. Seneca College offers many services that enables its students to benefit from accumulative advantage in order to be successful. These include, special accommodation for students that need it, tutors at The learning Center for extra tutoring, online tutoring, counseling services, study areas, and a library which allows you to borrow text books as well. By utilising the tutors at the learning center as well as the online tutoring I will be able to benefit for the extra learning as well as the in class tutoring which will allow be to better understand and learn about my area of study. This will allow me to excel at the course and earn a better GPA. By utilizing the counselling services, I will get the help needed to assist me with taking care of my mental health, handling stress and keeping my test anxiety at a lower level. This will help me to stay focused at school and keeping a level head instead of “crashing” and not being able to function effectively. The library has quiet study areas and group study areas where I would be able to study individually or with a group where we can exploit each others’ strengths and learn from each other while simultaneously improving on my weak points. By utilizing these services it will give me the edge needed to succeed in my academic goals. As Gladwel writes “It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success” (28).

Success a deliberate practice or inborn talent? Although some individuals are born with talent, it is with hard work, determination and practice that makes them successful. Gladwel discusses this in the second chapter where he discusses the ten-thousand-hour rule. He looks at a study that was done by K.Anders Ericsson and colleagues who studied groups of violinists from an elite music academy. They found that the best players were those that practiced more and predicted that by the age of twenty the best players would have practiced for ten thousand hours and the barely good players would have practiced for about gout thousand hours. The study was then done on a group of pianist and the results were similar to the first study and a similar comparison to Mozart. There is an old saying “practice makes perfect” and Gladwel, extrapolating from the studies done by Ericsson and his team found that the minimum amount of hours of practiced required to master something is ten thousand hours. Gladwell states :

“…In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours…. But no one has yet found case in which true worldclass expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery”.(37)

Although having talent is definitely a plus it doesn’t guarantee success as sufficient practice is required to master something. As such success is determined more by deliberate practice rather than just inborn talent.

At Seneca, simply attending class is not going to guarantee success. A student will have to take the extra effort to practice questions discussed in class and from their text book in their own time in order to be successful in their academic goals. I will be implementing this practice in order to be successful in my courses, especially the ones that has a lot practical work instead of theory.

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