Amazing things can come to people that work hard, persevere, and are lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time. Malcolm Gladwell talks a lot about this in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, in which he explains why two-thirds of Canada’s pro hockey players were born in January or February.
Expanding on the idea that when and where you’re born are everything…
The industrial titans and financiers of the Gilded Age were born between 1835 and 1839. That list includes Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan and John Rockefeller All of these men came to power in a time which experienced the most rapid economic expansion in our nation’s history. If this crop came along fifty years later, they would have came into their prime just in time for the Great Depression.
How about some of the legendary value investors? Art Samberg was born in 1941, Leon Cooperman in 1942 and Mario Gabelli in 1943. These three each began their careers in earnest when stocks were trading at single digit multiples and competed with double-digit interest rates. Finding value was the name of the game.
Then there are the godfathers of modern technology. Paul Allen was born in 1953, Sun Microsystems founders Bill Joy and Scott McNealy were both born in 1954 and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both born in 1955.
Can anybody will themselves to become one of these outliers? Sure, all you need are 10,000 hours and the good fortune to be born in the right place at the right time.
Michael Batnick is a managing partner at Ritholtz Wealth Management. He is the co-host of Animal Spirits, What Are Your Thoughts, and The Compound and Friends. For disclosure information please see here.