I recently heard a discussion on one of my favorite radio programs Radiolab, summarizing key points in a book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, about how the possibility of individual success depends on the time period and circumstances that you are born into. In summary the theory is this: For people coming of age at the time of the depression, economic circumstances prevented this group from achieving great success. By the time the depression was over, their age and experience was so lacking that they never overcame the disadvantage. But their children were born under different circumstances, especially if born during a year of low birthrate.
People who are born during a low birth year, have many fewer competitors throughout the development years. If they want to go out for Quarterback of the High School Varsity team, they have a much better chance of success. And the successful opportunities build on each other, building confidence in the individual, creating the recipe for continual success.
I also wonder if the time of year you are born influences your circumstances for success. It has been shown that many of the greatest hockey players are born during a particular range of months. During the developmental years when hockey players are first trained, there can be a significant physical difference in kids of that age group, and the more developed children have the advantage for success.
Because my birthday falls toward the end of the year, and right after the cutoff for being enrolled in school early, I was one of the older kids in my class growing up. Did that circumstance give me a mental advantage for success in school? I did fairly well in K-12 education without excessive effort, just dedication to completing the assignments.
The other bit I love about that Radiolab episode, how does labeling children as gifted or genius affect the development of that talent?