Maybe valedictorians are successful

I think there are some good points in this Time article about how successful valedictorians are later in life.

It turns out they do fine, but the article concludes they don’t ‘change the world.’

They speculate as to why:

So why are the number ones in high school so rarely the number ones in real life? There are two reasons. First, schools reward students who consistently do what they are told. Academic grades correlate only loosely with intelligence (standardized tests are better at measuring IQ). Grades are, however, an excellent predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and the ability to comply with rules.

The second reason is that schools reward being a generalist. There is little recognition of student passion or expertise. The real world, however, does the reverse.

I think these are interesting and reasonable sounding explanations, but too simplistic.

I don’t believe the authors give due consideration to how uncommon and how much luck goes into ‘changing the world’. It’s like concluding that no valedictorians have won the Powerball. That’s comparing something with a 1 in 400 chance (being a valedictorian) to something with a 1 in 292 million chance. It isn’t likely to happen mainly due to the odds of the second event (Powerball), not the odds of the first . It certainly isn’t likely to happen in a pool of 81 candidates that they followed.

Most world changers are what Nassim Taleb call Black Swans, which are low probability events that have more to do with luck than anything.

I know it’s tough for folks to believe. We see the successful people and forget about the odds they overcame to get there. We don’t think about the millions of other people that are very similar to the successful ones that haven’t made it.

Imagine if there were a TV show that followed the lives of lottery winners. That would probably lead us to forget those immense 1 in 292 million odds because, well, ‘it happened to them.’

That’s called survivorship bias. We don’t see the thousands or millions that were similar to the successful folks, so we can’t gauge how rare their success.

Also, I think the whole ‘change the world’ mantra is BS anyway. It has led generations of folks into narcissistic and self-destructive pursuits.

When I got close to success, I’ve seen what others had to sacrifice to have a chance of making it and I wasn’t willing to do that. I imagine there are many like me.

For example, I was a fair bicycle racer in my day. To get to the next level, I would have had to give up many things like hanging out with family and friends and have a single-minded focus on training (which, admittedly is the second reason the authors of the Time article gave–perhaps I was too much of a generalist to have a single-minded focus on training).

But, it was what I saw to get to the level after that that turned me off. I would have likely needed to sacrifice my morals and take performance enhancing drugs. I simply wasn’t willing to do that.

School brainwashes us to think of success as being world changing or making a big splash. You must be important, rich and famous, make it big! We envision getting there in meritocratic ways through hard work and persistence.

But, many find out, like I did, there’s often a dark side to achieving that success. To have a chance of that type of success often means being extremely selfish, making questionable sacrifices and perhaps, taking some moral shortcuts. I’d love to know what percentage of Hollywood super stars achieved their fame without providing a few questionable sexual favors to people who could give them a break along the way.

Perhaps valedictorians are simply smart enough to figure that out and come to believe that success isn’t about changing the whole world, but rather changing the part of world around you in, perhaps, smaller, but still important ways.

That might mean being a good and involved parent, volunteering to help others out in formal and informal ways, being a good friend and living by a good set of morals.

I wrote about this idea back in 2011 in the second part of this post.

Different soccer models emerging (or at least being tried)

No doubt, pickup play is a key driver to developing sports skills and game IQ.

The following two efforts will try to emulate pickup play for soccer, since it is sorely lacking in the U.S.

The guys from the 3four3 soccer blog are starting the 3four3 Player’s Club.


  • 25 weeks
  • Personal Training from proven, yes proven, coaches operating at the cutting edge of youth development
  • 75 hours – of available pickup games
  • Consistent exposure to proper pickup culture
  • Under the eyes of 3four3 staff on a weekly basis

Some folks affiliated with pro soccer teams in the Kansas City area are starting the Zone 1 Academy program.


  • 4 practices will be offered each week. Players may attend as many as they wish.
  • The daily training atmosphere will be a point of emphasis.
  • Individual and small group play will be emphasized.
  • Freedom of expression will be encouraged.

These seem like steps in the right direction.

I wish them the best of luck.

Conspiracy theory when we say so

I just saw an ABC Evening News piece about Fox News retracting a story about Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered during the election campaign last year, possibly being the person who leaked the DNC emails during last year’s campaign.

What I found ironic about the story is that ABC News reported how there’s been no evidence of this and that’s why the story had to be retracted. They presented the Seth Rich story as a ‘Conspiracy Theory’.

Yet, they opened the story with the idea that the Russians hacked the DNC emails, as in ‘Of course, it wasn’t Seth Rich, it was the Russians!’

I’m still waiting on the evidence of that one.

The only thing I’ve seen (and the footage included in this ABC News story) is Senators Pelosi and Feinstein saying that “based on what they have been shown’ they ‘believe’ Russia hacked the DNC.

Forgive me for not trusting two extreme-partisan Senators using back-pedal language (‘Well, I believed based on what I was shown. I can’t help that what I was shown was wrong.’)

If lack of known evidence makes the Seth Rich story a Conspiracy Theory, it seems that the Russian hacking story should also be considered Conspiracy Theory until there’s evidence to prove otherwise.

Addendum: The last time the ‘no evidence’ claim was made by the media was about Trump’s ‘Obama wiretapped me’ tweet. For weeks the media pounded ‘NO EVIDENCE’ (which sounds a lot like Lance Armstrong’s canned response when asked if he doped, ‘I’ve never failed a drug test.’)

Then we start to learn the details of ‘unmasking’ and that story seemed to slip out of the media rotation overnight.



It’s okay that kids quit sports

In this article on Changing the Game Project (dot com), an organization trying to breathe sanity back into youth sports, the author goes over some reasons why kids quit sports and things that can be done to help.

As a youth coach, I’ve had a couple parents forward this article to me when they disagreed with my coaching.

Here is a snippet from the article:

As I have stated here many times, 70% of children are dropping out of organized sports by the age of 13. Whenever I mention this sad statistic, people come out of the wood work saying that it’s only the kids who aren’t good enough to play that quit. They say it’s an age where school, jobs and other interests take precedence. These things are true and contribute to a part of the dropout rate, but they are not the entire picture.

We don’t simply lose the kids who cannot make varsity; we lose many of the best athletes on our teams.

One problem is that the author, John O’Sullivan, doesn’t quantify how much these other factors contribute to the dropout rate.

Basic math says that the vast majority of kids who dropout are the kids that cannot make varsity. If only the top 20% of kids make the high school team, that means 80% don’t. If only the top 5% of the high school athletes make a college team, 95% don’t.

In my experience, around ages 11 – 14 kids come to one of a few reality checks.

They may realize that being average in a sport takes work they aren’t willing to put in.

Or, they come to understand the odds of them becoming a college or pro players is low.

I appreciate O’Sullivan’s efforts to want to take some of the adult toxicity out of youth sports.

But, I also believe there’s nothing wrong with having a 70% dropout rate by age 13. My guess is that statistic has remained consistent over time because it tracks the winnowing of the field to make the cut for high school, college and pro.

If efforts to keep kids playing sports longer work, I believe it may have some ill consequences — mainly, keeping kids from doing other things that may be more worth while.


Boudreaux on tax ‘giveaways’

Don Boudreaux writes about calling tax cuts ‘giveaways’:

(As an aside, I refuse to go along with the common-in-many-circles description of such a tax cut as a “gift” or a “giveaway” to Smith and other high-income earners.  Smith is the person who earned the income.  It is his property.  This income belongs to Smith.  The government takes it away from him.  For the government to reduce the amount of money that it takes away from Smith is not properly called a giveaway to Smith.  But let’s here say no more about this particular linguistic battering of reality.)

Then he provides an apt analogy:

Suppose that freedom of the press were reported in the same way as are tax cuts “for the rich.”  In particular, suppose that a government that, until now, routinely suppressed the freedom of the press announces that it will be less censorious.  What would you think of a reporter who describes the change as a “giveaway to the press”?

Most people, of course, do not own newspapers or other media outlets.  Most people aren’t reporters or editors or paid pundits.  So a reduction in press censorship might be said to help only the relatively few people who own and who work for the news media.

But clearly the case for freedom of the press is not centered on the benefits such freedom has for press barons, news reporters, and paid pundits.  The core of the case for freedom of the press is that it bestows benefits society-wide.  When the press is free, the chief beneficiaries are the general public.  Anyone who assesses changes in the press’s freedom exclusively by how such changes affect “the press” would rightly be called out as missing the point.

Yet, regrettably, far too many mainstream-media assessments of changes in tax policy focus exclusively on how such changes affect those who earn the incomes and who own the wealth that is legally subject to the tax changes.


You can’t giveaway something that isn’t your’s to begin with

Today, Chuck Schumer demonstrated why I have a tougher time aligning with democrats than the other side.

In response to Trump’s tax plan, he described it as a “tax giveaway to wealthy.”

I prefer public servants that think of taxes as something that people pay to the government, not as something the government already owns.

In my opinion, public servants that think of taxes as the former are more likely to spend the people’s money prudently.

Public servants who think of taxes as something the government already owns will spend it less prudently and will never be satisfied the amount they have to spend. They will always want more.

Such folks are less like public servants and more like lords.


Competition in health care?

Sheldon Richman explains why more competition would be good in health care.  He writes:

Competition is the universal solvent: it dissolves all kinds of problems. (I refer to competition in its broadest sense, including what goes on in the unrestricted marketplace of ideas.) The reason competition is so effective at enhancing public welfare is that no person or group has a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom. These are scattered throughout society, and we cannot know who has the information or vision that is exactly what some or all of us are looking for. With goods and services, knowledge comes largely in the form of prices, which communicate supply and demand conditions and give entrepreneurs clues to how they can satisfy hitherto unsatisfied consumer demand and thereby earn profits.

Everything in the previous paragraph applies to medical care and insurance. The dogma that such services and products are outside the scope of economics is merely self-serving nonsense.

He then goes onto explain how competition is currently “curtailed”:

The practice of medicine (physicians, nurses, etc.) is licensed by state governments. The medical-facility industry is largely governed by state certificate-of-need requirements. Medical schools are subject to government-linked accreditation. The insurance industry is ruled by 50 state governments in cahoots with insurers and, since 2010, the national government; the Department of Health and Human Services defines basic coverage, criteria for acceptance, and price rules. Drugs and medical devices are the domain of a government bureaucracy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and patent law. Individuals are mandated to have insurance. This only scratches the surface.

I know it’s very, very tough for people to imagine a world where doctors are not licensed by the state government.

Who will make sure they are any good?

The same people who do now. Us.

Anecdotes prevent licensing from going away. It only takes one horror story of an unlicensed doctor to get most people to think, “See! This is why doctors need to be licensed.”

Yet, even with licensing there are horror stories. Nobody asks, “How did licensing let this one through?”