The “Matthew effect” is an observation defined by a sociologist named Robert Merton saying that some people have a small advantage early in life, enabling them to have access to special opportunities that make them extra successful. Young Hockey players born in the first three months of the year start out a bit bigger than their younger teammates. Coaches favor these bigger kids and give them more training and coaching. This favoritism continues until the player reaches professional level hockey.
Talent, passion and hard work are only some of the ingredients of the highest level of success for hockey players.
The luck of being slightly bigger in the youth team leagues is a key ingredient.
The typical way that we define success in life is not always the best way to define success. For example, “the Matthew effect” does not just apply to hockey players, it also be observed in education because the best students in class get the most attention.
If people were separated into classes or sports leagues by which month they were born in, they would be studying in school or playing sports people who have the same maturity level or the same advantage.
The best hockey players have an advantage if they are lucky to have been born in the first three months of the year. One of the lessons learned here is that if we cut off people who have been born later in the year, we run the risk of not rewarding students for their achievements in sports.
A more efficient approach would allow all students to have the ability to play sports, regardless of when they were born.
In kindergarten, the same thing happens; the advantage of being born early in the year versus being born at the end of the year and it keeps on going throughout school and most people believe that it stops early in life, but it does not because there is competition in life all through school. The teachers are confusing ability with maturity because we have tested almost all the time.
We personalize success so much that we miss opportunities to promote people and we’re frustrating achievement because we prematurely label people as failures in life. Society determines who does and who does not make it in life. We think like this because our ideas of success are that success is a matter of simple merit and that the world in which we grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.
The challenges to the traditional ideas of success is that everyone should have a chance to succeed in life and it does not really matter in life, whether we lose or win in a sport, or whether we fail or pass a class in school but whether we have an opportunity to put our talents, passions and abilities to good use in life.