Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, October 16, 2006

Forecasting success


I've been thinking about how orienteers develop and about the idea of forecasting success. I've always thought it was interesting that there is clearly a relationship between being a good junior orienteer and being a good senior orienteer, but that the relationship isn't necessarily straightforward.

In the last week+ I've come across the basic ideas of forecasting in three disparate contexts.

1. I had a chat at the North American Champs about Bill James and, in particular, his ideas about relating minor league baseball stats and major league performance.

2. At the conference in Denver last week, I went to a presentation by researchers who are looking at forecasting murder. They're analyzing information to try to identify characteristics of offenders that can be used to predict that those offenders will not only offend again, but offend again by killing someone. That's a lot more serious and important than orienteering, but there are probably some interesting parallels (not so much in characteristics as in the approach to thinking about the problem).

3. I read about a talk Malcolm Gladwell gave on his experiences as a runner and some general thoughts about young progidies. Gladwell's stories reminded me of something Peter Snell told me. Peter said that two runners in his school were better than him at 800 meters. It wasn't much longer, however, before Peter was the best 800 meter runner in the world.

Can you look at how a junior orienteers and predict future performance at a high level? Can you do it without a lot of "false positives"? I don't know the answer to those questions, though I've got a few ideas. Maybe that's a topic for tomorrow...

posted by Michael | 7:54 PM


I predict Max Power will be a great orienteer one day. He's a wiz at picking up rocks and he has that sweet ride (stroller shaped like a race car).
Looking forward to reading about your ideas.
Great post...forecasting success is an interesting topic.

Is it related to environment? No.
Plenty of examples of very successful people who grew up in poverty and plenty of losers grew up with every advantage imaginable.

Is it related to education? No.
The wealthiest man in the world is a college dropout. Lost of successful people never went to college.

the old cliche that people with a college degree earn more than those who don't have a college degree is true but misses the boat.

In general, people with a college degree are more successful than those who don't have a degree because they have more drive and determination to succeed (they made the sacrifice to go to college and earn a degree after all).

To me, saying people with a college degree earn more than those without is like saying people with bigger feet wear bigger shoes...No kidding...that's quite obvious.

Success has more to do with attitude (how you react to the bad things that happen to eveyone - quit or keep trying) and having a specific goal (how can you reach your destination if you don't know what it is).
I vote for Max Power!! He also can run fast & climb anything in his way.
-- Max's Mom
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