By Ed Gandia
Why do so many freelance writers fail while many who face even greater obstacles succeed? Is it natural talent? Is it hard work? Is it sheer persistence?
I find these questions absolutely fascinating. That’s why I’ve spent a great part of my adult life studying success.
But it wasn’t until I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that much of what I had learned came together into one unifying principle:
Success only happens at the intersection of preparation and opportunity!
To better explain this, let’s take this discussion outside of freelancing for a minute, because there’s a fascinating lesson here.
Talent Is Overrated
Did you know that in Canada, arguably the most hockey-crazed nation in the world, nearly ALL top players are born (get this) in the first three months of the year?
Why is that?
Gladwell explains that it has nothing to do with astrology or magic. Quite simply, the eligibility cutoff for junior hockey leagues in that country is January 1. That means that a boy who turns 10 on January 2, for example, will be playing with kids who won’t turn 10 until November or December.
Why does that matter? Well, as you probably know if you have kids that age, in terms of physical maturity, a 12-month age difference is huge. In sports, it means you have a great advantage over the younger kids.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Canadian coaches start to select players for their all-star teams around age 9 or 10. And guess which ones they tend to pick? That’s right, the older kids, who, when compared to those just a few months younger, appear to be bigger and more coordinated.
Once a kid is picked for the all-star team, he gets better coaching. He has twice the number of practice sessions. He also plays in more games. And his teammates are better, which pushes him to improve continually.
By age 14, what started out as a small advantage (mainly in size and coordination due to his age) is now a huge advantage over the younger kids he left behind 4 years before. And now, this young man’s chances of making it to the junior league and into the big leagues are very high.
Gladwell found the same patterns in American baseball, where the cutoff date for almost all nonschool baseball leagues is July 31. As a result, more major league players have birthdays in August than in any other month.
Opportunity Is Only Half of the Equation
Is it luck? Call it what you want, but I say it all boils down to the intersection of preparation and opportunity.
These older kids were all given a chance (opportunity). But had they not prepared—or, more importantly, had their parents not signed them up for the junior hockey league—they would NOT have succeeded.
And once selected to the all-star teams, had they not worked hard, practiced day and night and loved what they were doing, they would not have made it to the majors.
I don’t know where you are today in your freelance career. I don’t know if you’re just getting started or if you’ve been at it awhile. But regardless of your current situation, if you want to succeed, you must continually practice, upgrade your knowledge base and work hard to become better.
In other words, you must constantly prepare.
That means refining your craft. Developing smarter prospecting strategies. Experimenting with better pricing strategies. Learning basic negotiation skills. Sharing best practices with some of your peers (especially those who are more successful than you). And much more.
Only then will you be able to take full advantage of the opportunities when they come your way. (And they WILL come. They always do!)
Earl Nightingale once said that if a person does not prepare for his success, when his opportunity comes, it will only make him look foolish.
Pay the price. Prepare today. Success is worth it.
Ed Gandia is the co-author of the newly released book The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle: www.TheWealthyFreelancer.com/amazon.