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.