11.26.2008

Timing is Everything

As previously mentioned, I'm listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers audiobook...and now wishing I had the hard copy in my hand, because I can't find the quote I'm looking for.

In a synopsis, Gladwell lays out the case that almost all titans of technology were born in a narrow window of time. For example...

Bill Joy - Founding team, Sun Microsystems - November 8, 1954
Scott McNealy - Founding team, Sun Microsystems - Nov 13, 1954
Vinod Khosla - Founding team, Sun Microsystems - Jan 28, 1955
Steve Jobs - Apple Computers - Feb 24, 1955
Andy Bechtolsheim, Founding team, Sun Microsystems - June 1955
Bill Gates - Microsoft - Oct 28, 1955
Steve Ballmer - Microsoft CEO - March 24, 1956

Gladwell goes on to list a bunch of lesser known, behind the scenes people and their birthdays, all into an 24 month window. While they all certainly are bright men and women, they are not arguably smarter than those who came before or after them. While they are hard workers, they do not work harder or longer than any other generation.

What was it about that window of time that produced a micro-sliced generation of high achievers?

Timing.

These men came into adulthood at a time when computers were behemoths that took up entire rooms, but the wheels of innovation were already turning...and their minds were free to think about making computers smaller and affordable - perhaps even putting one on your desk.

Had they been born five years earlier, they would have been entrenched in careers that were build on large mainframe computers. Being creative would have put their livelihood in jeopardy. They couldn't have afforded to put years into small computers - they would have had a mortgage to pay and babies to raise.

Had they been born five years later, they would have missed the revolution and been relegated to being a footsoldier in a new guard of electronics and software companies.

Gates, Jobs and others became who they are by hard work, by cleverness, and by the unique opportunity afforded them by a narrow window of time.

This post has nothing to do with computers. It has to do with questions I'm asking myself right now...because in a sense, we were all born on our own 4th of July, 1955.

For every person born, there is a unique opportunity to shift history, to change the game, to invent what was not possible a few years earlier and won't be amazing a few years later. We all have our own window of time.

So I'm asking...
  • What time is it right now?
  • What opportunities are being afforded us that have never been afforded others before...and will be passe in short order.
  • What is just through this window of time, and how many of us can get through the window before time slams it shut forever?

3 comments:

Adam M said...

Bro, great. This post has got me reeling in thought now, and it wont stop anytime soon! I love Gladwell. In fact, an author that can make you pause, think and reflect on your own life is a great author in my book.

Those 3 questions you asked are pretty loaded. To me, answering them comes with a tinge of hesitancy. If we do answer them, then, inevitably, we are also setting ourselves up to take a hard look at where we are personally in life and perhaps make some big personal decisions. What do you say after Thanksgiving we get coffee and talk about these questions? I would love to hear your thoughts on them.

TJ said...

There's a twinge of pain in my heart hearing those questions. It scares me to say it but I'm wondering if its a matter of hindsight being 20/20? It hurts to think about it because i want to be in control, but maybe the Lord is, and thats that. I don't know... just my thought.

Esther Irwin said...

Mike Bickle was born in 1955. I only know that b/c that was the same year I was born. But he's 2 days older than me. :) And coming from that era, I remember thinking that our graduating class was somehow different and (better is what I want to say here)...well, just different than the other classes before us or behind us. We were cool from the beginning and continued to be cool.