Defying The Odds: Owning The Power Of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
How the Relative Age Effect in Hockey Players Offers a Game-Changing Insight into Personal Growth and Self-Belief
Imagine a world where the month of your birth determines the trajectory of your success. It may sound like a plot straight out of a science fiction novel, but in the competitive world of hockey, it’s a startling reality.
In the mid-80s, Canadian psychologist Roger Barnsley first drew attention to the relative age effect.
In any elite group of hockey players — the very best of the best — 40% were born between January and March, 30% between April and June, 20% between July and September, and 10% between October and December.
The evidence was so undeniable he said “You don’t even need to do any statistical analysis. You just look at it.”
Now, this had nothing to do with astrology or winter magic.
This happened, and keeps happening, because of the relative age effect; which is when people born earlier in a given period have an advantage in sports and school.
The cutoff for age-class hockey in Canada is January 1st. Meaning kids born January 2nd can end up playing alongside other kids who won’t turn 10 until the end of the year.
At preadolescence, a 12-month gap in age represents a huge difference in physical maturity
So they get selected because of their talent for sure, but also simply because they are physically older.
So what happens when these kids get selected at age 9 or 10? They get:
3.5 more games per season, which means more practice (hockey needs an ice rink, so accessibility is limited)
As a result, the cutoff date creates a self-fulfilling prophecy — a situation in which ‘a false definition in the beginning… evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.’
Now, this is unfair, and it hasn’t been solved. But I’m more interested and excited about the learning that we can extract from this.
The key lesson here is how the false definition evokes new behavior.
My question to you is,
how are you defining yourself?
What we believe to be true, will become our reality.
If you think of yourself incapable of doing something, you will never engage in the behavior necessary to become good at it in the first place.
So, are you self-imposing an arbitrary ‘cutoff’ based on your own limited beliefs?
Are you writing your own self fulfilling prophecy to failure?
“The tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn, it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured.”
— Outliers. The story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
We are living in an age where almost anything seems possible. A world of endless information, communities, and resources right at our fingertips.
It’s like standing in the middle of a vast, interconnected web, where every strand is a potential pathway to knowledge, growth, and change. And guess what? It’s the perfect time for each of us to pick our spot, plant our seeds, and just let ourselves grow.
How amazing is it that we can literally choose our environment? Like, if you’re into photography, there’s a whole online universe filled with tutorials, forums, and Insta accounts just waiting to be explored. If you’re trying to be the next startup sensation, there’s a sea of entrepreneurial wisdom, networking groups, and pitch events to dive into.
It’s all about finding your tribe, your vibe, and your drive.
We’re not just passive passengers on this journey; we’re the drivers, the navigators, the ones choosing the tunes for the road trip of life.
The digital world is like this massive, ever-growing buffet, and we get to decide what’s on our plate. Are we picking the stuff that nourishes our dreams? Or are we just filling up on junk?
The environments we choose, the people we connect with, the content we consume — it’s like crafting the ultimate playlist for our personal growth. And the beauty of it is, we get to hit play, pause, skip, or repeat. It’s all in our hands.
But here’s the kicker — choice is a responsibility.
Remember, it’s not just about growing from the hardiest acorn; it’s about finding that sunny spot, that rich soil, and thriving.
We all have the power to find our groove, hit the right notes, and dance to the rhythm of our dreams. It’s about writing our own lyrics, composing our own melody, and creating a symphony of success.
Write your own self-fulfilling prophecy by believing you are capable first, then enacting the behavior that will result in the reality of your dreams.