Money Breeds Success


It’s August, a dead time during NBA season, but NBA blogger Ethan Sherwood Strauss managed to write a super intriguing piece about the success of second generation NBA players. Specifically, Strauss notices that almost all second-generation professional ballers are great shooters. Steph Curry, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, etc, these guys could all stroke it from deep.

The conventional thinking is: these guys got good genes! But Strauss digs deeper. He theorizes that second generation NBA players are such elite shooters because of wealthy family backgrounds, which meant the Steph Currys and Klay Thompsons had access to professional training facilities, training equipments, and coaches from day one.

Whereas a Gary Payton had to work on his jumper in the broken-down parks of Oakland, young Kevin Love was probably working on his jumper inside a NBA-sized gym with ballboys fetching rebounds.

This theory, that wealth/privilege breeds more success is hardly new — Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful book, Outliers: The Story of Success touches on this exact topic. Gladwell’s theory goes beyond just wealth — though that is a major part — but also luck. Would Bill Gates have become the revolutionary computer mastermind he is today if he didn’t happen to be at a campus with super-advanced computers? That’s the type of shit Gladwell explores in the book.

I’ve had a similar theory about Hong Kong people for years. This is a weird town, in which the divide between expats/English-speaking Chinese and local Canto Chinese is so wide it covers not just language, mentality, and tastes in music, but also looks and success.

This next comment might catch flack with sensitive cats, but I believe it to be true: In general, international schooled Chinese in Hong Kong are better looking and more confident/assertive/Type-A-like than a local Canto Chinese (it’s not necessarily a complete praise on one side though. Being privileged and good looking tend to be bad for egos. I’d say there’s a higher percentage of douchebags and superficial chicks from the international school crowd too than local kids too). I mean, take a stroll through LKF on a Friday night and look at the English speaking twentysomethings there and then walk around Mongkok and check out same age group in Mongkok, the LKF group are just more attractive people. Guys are taller, more muscular; girls got more curves. Teeth are straighter, skins clearer, etc.

This is where the Outlier effect comes in. It can’t all be genes. Money is a factor. International school kids (meaning they rich) could afford braces, dermatologists for them pimple-filled years, and they probably have a gym in their Mid-Levels home (and more leisure time to pursue fitness). All that shit makes a difference. While a 17 year old local Canto kid is spending his summers working a part time job at McDonalds in Wanchai, the 17 year old HKIS kid is suntanning in Hawaii or “studying” or “doing an internship” in Europe, where they become more cultured, more active, more tanned.

I’ll give another example. I was reading this piece on important females in the tech industry (the real tech industry, in San Francisco, not the ones in like Singapore or some shit) earlier today when I came across Jess Lee, whom I thought looked really familiar. Anyway, she’s the CEO of a startup right now and was previously working on Google Maps. So she’s done some big shit. I then read from the piece that she grew up in Hong Kong and suddenly, everything clicked.

She went to HKIS with an old friend. I’ve seen her old pic before.

HKIS (Hong Kong International School), supposedly the most expensive and top-ranked international school in Hong Kong, seems to churn out good looking and successful people like egg tarts. Especially the class of 99.

In the past few years, I’ve met like eight or nine HKIS class of 99ers and every single one of them are good looking, and like six of them are CEOs and shit. Here’s the list: Edison Chen, Kevin Poon, Nicolas Tse, Jennifer Tse, the girl who owns Sift cupcakes in Hong Kong, the girl who is co-owner of Dominque Ansel Bakery in New York City which is responsible for the Cronut craze right now, the aforementioned Jess Lee, and my old friend.

It’s like, damn, HKIS. Maybe your ridiculous tuition is worth it after all.

And then I think about myself. Most of y’all who know me know I love NBA and writing, and that my dream job would be to write about the NBA. I’ve made small, baby steps in that direction over the years — I am a contributing writer to Sports Illustrated, I wrote a couple of NBA profiles for New York Magazine, I wrote for SLAM magazine, etc. Hell, I even moved to New York last year in hopes of chasing that dream, after saving up for a year.

But for the most part, I haven’t accomplished much in that field, and I don’t know if I ever will. I wanted to stick it out in New York, but I was barely making ends meet financially so in the end I left (it’s a lot easier to chase your dreams and take risks when you don’t have to keep an eye on your bank balance at all times). Now in Hong Kong, I want to focus on writing for Sports Illustrated, SLAM, and Wall Street Journal more, but because I have rent to pay, I must constantly take on jobs writing about topics I don’t give a shit about (meaning, not basketball, films, or black people shit).

So yeah, if I was an international school kid, I could and would have stuck it out in New York. Or even if I move back to HK, I’d probably have a free place to stay instead of having to stress about paying rent. If I don’t have to worry about rent/$, I could then focus solely on pursuing my sportswriting career, I’d do nothing but pitch to Sports Illustrated (most of the full time freelance English writers I know in HK are international school kids, because freelance lifestyle isn’t really sustainable unless you ain’t gotta worry about money).

Gladwell described this problem as the rich gets richer, poor gets poorer conundrum.

I would think of a clever wrap up here but I must now head off to do a job I don’t like, in order to pay bills.


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