Know Your Window Of Peak Performance

December 30, 2012 5:00 am

We spotted a very interesting concept from Nate Silver’s book ‘The Signal and the Noise’ that we thought would be great advice for the Zuckerbergs of tomorrow. It is about the ‘aging curve’, and the ‘window of peak performance’.

“A baseball player, James found, peaks at age twenty-seven. Of the fifty MVP winners between 1985 and 2009, 60 percent were between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine, and 20 percent were aged twenty-seven exactly. This is when the combination of physical attributes and mental attributes needed to play the game well seem to be in the best balance.

Under baseball’s contract rules, players do not become free agents until fairly late in their careers: after they’ve played at least six full major-league seasons (before then, they are under the exclusive control of the club that drafted them and cannot command a full market price). Since the typical rookie reaches the big leagues at twenty-three or twenty-four years old, he might not become a free agent until he is thirty—just after his window of peak performance has eclipsed. Teams were paying premium dollars for free agents on the assumption that they would replicate in their thirties the production they had exhibited in their twenties; in fact, it usually declined, and since Major League Baseball contracts are guaranteed, the teams had no recourse.”

There are two key takeaways from this – the first takeaway is for corporates to understand when an employee has peaked – but we are not interested in that. The second is for you, the individual, to know your window of peak performance and, most importantly, become a free agent when you are in that window.

There have been multiple debates around the ideal age for entrepreneurs – but we agree with Nate, that this might not be a smooth curve – ‘players age at different paces’. But what is important, for the aspiring entrepreneur, to know his own window, and act accordingly.

And here is the key takeaway: even if a baseball player knows his window of peak performance, he cannot become a free agent when he wants, and due to the way baseball’s contract rules work, generally speaking, he is past his peak performance window when he can finally become free. But that is clearly not the case with corporates – generally speaking, they do not know when you peak, and even if they knew that, if you want to be a free agent, they can do nothing about it!

So the summary of what we gathered from Nate’s baseball analogy is this: Players age at different paces. Know your window of peak performance and act wisely.

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