1/23/16

"Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from December 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Sorry for the delay this morning, guys. I'm back in the States and writing this from a CC's coffee shop in New Orleans. It's good to be back in the ol' U.S. of A. Anyway, this is a conversation I've been wanting to have on the site for awhile. Do the rich work harder than the poor in America, or are they just lucky? This Journal article from late September lays out the case.

According to Virgin's Richard Branson, luck has more to do with it than hard work. I can't really say for sure, as I've done fairly well in life and I've worked very hard (at times), but I'm also the luckiest bastard I know. If past is truly prologue (and I believe it is) then being rescued as an infant from a London orphanage by an American family had more to do with my success in life than anything that happened after that. And no one, least of all me, could ever claim that wasn't anything but a giant stroke of unbelievable luck.

A recent study conducted by Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman indicates otherwise though. It shows that the rich actually do work harder than the poor, and by a wide margin.

His study found that people who earn less than $20,000 a year, for instance, spent more than a third of their time in passive leisure, like kicking back and watching TV. By contrast, those earning more than $100,000 a year (more affluent than wealthy), spent less than a fifth of their time in passive leisure.

I don't think there's any doubt on WSO that the majority of wealthy people are workaholics, despite the Paris Hiltons of the world who receive all the press. Another study by Steven Landsburg indicates that the uber-wealthy consider their work to be their recreation, and therefore eschew what most of us consider leisurely activities in favor of more time at the office.

For many of today's rich there is no such thing as "leisure" in the classic sense -- work is their play. They don't sit around the polo field or lounge around the country club all day like Old Money. The new rich are perpetual-motion machines -- young, driven and always working on the next project.

Building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun. They're uncomfortable hanging around the club or sitting on the beach (Several people I interviewed for my book said they've never sat through an entire movie, because they get bored.) Their version of "fun" or "leisure" revolves around making money and creating businesses, activities defined as "work" in most economic studies.

While I often admire the gargantuan work ethic of these guys, I can't say I envy them. In a lot of ways, the poor know a lot more about work/life balance than the super rich. And I love my time off.

So I have two questions for you guys, and I'd like your input.

First, does the average rich person work harder than the average poor person? And second, how much of becoming wealthy is hard work, and how much is just dumb luck?

Comments (68)

12/17/10

When you bust your ass, get an education and move up the ladder, work is less menial and more impacting. Of course it will be more fun. When you factor in all the work it took for a wealthy person to obtain that position, usually they work harder.

12/17/10

dinner tomorrow eddie? hit me up on im

12/17/10

It seems to me that if you are making below $20,000 a year you are probably in a job that makes you not want to work harder - which it sounds like harder is being defined as longer in the quote above.
It also seems to me that if you are complacent with your $20,000 then you don't have the motivation or drive needed to make more money and become rich.
I almost feel as though the "hard work" phrase should be replaced by the word motivation or drive. Are the rich more driven? When put it in those words it makes you think about it from a different perspective.


"Whatever you do, don't be a victim. If you're in a bad situation, try to fix it. If you can't fix it, move on. Don't whine." --Jack Welch
12/17/10

When I was 20 years old, I shared a 1-bedroom apartment with two other guys. It was basically a sick party pad. Anyway, one of my roommates was about 24 and hung drywall for a living. He was a die hard wake-and-baker, and I didn't need an alarm clock - I'd just wake up at 5:30 when I heard his bong gurgling.

That guy worked like a BEAST and didn't make much. But he spent most of his time high (even at work), so it didn't bother him.

12/17/10

There's more than one way to earn $20,000.

My cousin used to make around that after dropping out of college working on a loading dock, moving loading crates of bottled and canned drinks on and off of trucks. He was physically exhausted every day and it was hard for him to muster the energy do to anything BUT passive leisure, even though he preferred golfing and swimming to watching TV. The fact that he was such a hard worker eventually showed through and he now has a good job going as an assistant manager of a department store with 1/4 of a college education-pays his bills with a good amount left over and he works around 60 hrs a week, leaving him time with his wife and kid.

My high school buddy never started college and makes about that delivering pizzas and working in the kitchen of the same place he's worked since HS, not even full time. He spends probably 6-8 hours a day minimum playing videogames. I have a hard time seeing him breaking that cycle.

There have been many great comebacks throughout history. Jesus was dead but then came back as an all-powerful God-Zombie.

12/17/10

Fist- Eddie I'm sure you were an adorable young lad and luck had nothing to do with your adoption.

I think the achievement of mega-wealth and success is a blend of luck and hard work. Take my dad for example, non target, poor background, and mediocre grades. What he does have going for him is his farm boy work ethic. He is where he is today because he ALWAYS worked hard and well and this opened the door for luck to play a role- which in his case were international assignments coupled with promotions.

Hard work is the necessary foundation; luck is what opens those amazing opportunities up rather than the mediocre opportunities.

12/17/10

""First, does the average rich person work harder than the average poor person? And second, how much of becoming wealthy is hard work, and how much is just dumb luck?""

I think the average poor person might work a little harder than the average rich person, but with the caveat that first generation (nouveau riche) wealth tend to work much harder than anyone else on the planet. They usually have an internal drive for success, refuse to personally compromise, their work is more play than actual work, etc., that most of the general population don't appear to have.

I also think luck, at least in some quantities, is required to become wickedly successful/rich. There are a few solid psychology/sociology writers out there who discuss this at length. One example, I believe it originates from Malcolm Gladwell, covers the story of Bill Gates who has/had stellar personal drive, but also had the good luck to attend a school that provided access to computers that many other schools didn't. So if Gates hadn't had early access to computers, would we live in a Mac only world?

So much like the primordial ooze that generated the first macromolecules... and later us (the dumb monkeys)... it's a synergy of what's there and timing.

__________________________
Attempting to be the chess player, not the chess piece @ Steadfast Finances

12/17/10

Wealth seems to a byproduct of both hard work and luck. I think about it this way:

Let's say Person A has a 5% chance of becoming wealthy (through sheer luck). This person gets average grades in school, goes to the average amount of college at an average school, works average hours at an average job, etc. This person, though, could get rich through wealthy family, the lottery, a lawsuit, etc.

Then say that Person B is the high school valedictorian, gets into Harvard where he makes a 3.9 while spending summers building houses in rural Kenya and working at Goldman Sachs. This person still has a certain "luck" factor associated with becoming wealthy, but because of his hard work that "factor" has increased to, say, 90%.

My point is that luck certainly plays a part, but you can certainly stack the odds in your favor by working hard.

12/17/10

The average rich person does work more than the average poor person. Just imagine how many people are ready to take over our jobs (well, since I'm not working yet... your jobs). You really have to stay on your toes in finance, and that take a lot of work.

And reiterating what Bob Saget CFA said earlier, some people get lots of lucky breaks, and some people get only one lucky break. Edmundo, you got lucky, but you didn't slack off either. I would say averaging the people in the world, 50% luck, 50% hard work.

--Meliora sequimur

Best Response
12/17/10

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

12/17/10
sofib09:

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

I love that quote, SB.

I feel like the people who are self-made wealthy are those motivated to succeed and therefore are less complacent than someone who sees no immediate incentive to work harder, no reward for greater effort. i.e. I have a huge disconnect with a ton of kids at my school because of the attitude of entitlement and general apathy so pervasive amongst everyone. I have something in common with Eddie, apparently; I'm an adopted kid who found my way into a family, came up out of the wrong part of Philly, know and witnessed kids, peers, and friends of mine get shot, cut, hurt, or swallowed up by crime and gang life, and got out by the grace of God and the talents he gave me. I got into a target, a number of great schools, work my ass off to put myself through school with a maximum credit load, and you know what, I just got an offer as a sophomore from Morgan for two summers in both IBD and S&T along with a scholarship for the next two years of school, my choice for either division too.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that the people who want something and are made of any character worth mentioning at all will find or create a way to succeed. So many things fell into place for me and I'm incredibly blessed to have the opportunities I enjoyed, but just as much was in my way too.

Most people do things to add days to their life. I do things to add life to my days.

Browse my blog as a WSO contributing author

12/17/10

I feel like the people who are self-made wealthy are those motivated to succeed and therefore are less complacent than someone who sees no immediate incentive to work harder, no reward for greater effort. i.e. I have a huge disconnect with a ton of kids at my school because of the attitude of entitlement and general apathy so pervasive amongst everyone. I have something in common with Eddie, apparently; I'm an adopted kid who found my way into a family, came up out of the wrong part of Philly, know and witnessed kids, peers, and friends of mine get shot, cut, hurt, or swallowed up by crime and gang life, and got out by the grace of God and the talents he gave me. I got into a target, a number of great schools, work my ass off to put myself through school with a maximum credit load, and you know what, I just got an offer as a sophomore from Morgan for two summers in both IBD and S&T along with a scholarship for the next two years of school, my choice for either division too.

I think you highlighted a greater issue with the American society today. The sense of entitlement stretches all the way down the socioeconomic chain. Peopel with no skillsets expect to make 25 dollars an hour or teenagers view as working at McDonalds as to below them. Yet somehow all believe that they deserve everything they could ever want and more, but not have to work for it. I think at its most basic levels "financial" success boils down to two items. First having a desernable (sp) skill set and the willingness to work hard. For example, look at all of the U.S. automotive manufacturing jobs who are seeing their wages cut back to 14 - 16 dollars an hour to make them cost competitive with other parts of the world/regions of the country, yet the machining technicians or other skilled labors are still making $35 + an hour, because they have a defined skillset that is needed.

12/17/10
sofib09:

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

...My sentiments exactly

I don't actually think one works harder than the other per se. I think it has more to do with ones drive and desire to succeed against all the odds in front of them. I view it from the perspective that one creates his/her own destiny.

"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill is a great book for this topic

Please don't make me talk to you like an asshole...

12/17/10

I think a part of becoming wealthy is just plain luck. It's being at the right moment at the right time. For instance when you meet someone; you could meet someone (on the street for all I know) and they could just be talking about business. You find it interesting and decide to butt in. This could lead to anything (you might want). This is being at the right moment and the right time. Of course it was also up to you to join the conversation.

I think people wanting to be wealthy will lead people to be busy with getting wealthy. So they're alway looking for opportunities. If you always looking for opportunities you could see it as being busy. Therefore getting wealthy can be hard work.

12/17/10

i have two friends that work min wage and spend all there money on magic the gathering cards :(

12/17/10

How rich are we talking? Maybe becoming a billionaire is more about luck, while becoming a millionaire is more about hard work? I'm not even sure if I believe that, but I did hear Nassim Taleb say something along those lines, so at least it's food for thought.

12/17/10
econ:

How rich are we talking? Maybe becoming a billionaire is more about luck, while becoming a millionaire is more about hard work? I'm not even sure if I believe that, but I did hear Nassim Taleb say something along those lines, so at least it's food for thought.

Totally agree. Millionaires generally are professionals like lawyers, bankers, health professionals and other notable professions. These people work long hours and often have to climb some sort of ladder.

Billionaires, especially tech billionaires were at the right place at the right time. The only reason why Bill Gates is wealthy is because he was the first to market with an OS for computers.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P

12/17/10

If we are talking the ridiculous rich than it is more of a case of luck They are clearly an outlier when compared to the majority and were in the right place at the right time with the right background. However, if we're talking about the upper class individuals who have several millions, than I would venture to say its about hard work. Having that defined, I am one who has experienced in my life time that the "poor" have a tendency to be lazy, lack ambition, and would rather live poor than exhaust themselves trying to keep up with those that they consider smarter than them. It is these characteristics that force them into blue collar jobs that don't require the knowledge that a white collar job does. I think we can all agree a blue collar job is laborous and taxing on the body. However, just bcause it is more laborous does not mean it is harder than studying for an undergraduate degree, pursuing a Master's while working full-time, and sitting for the CFA to finally have the credentials necessary to pursue your dream job. Simply put ... The rich work harder!

12/17/10
TheBigCheese:

If we are talking the ridiculous rich than it is more of a case of luck They are clearly an outlier when compared to the majority and were in the right place at the right time with the right background.

A minor point, but being an outlier does not necessarily imply luck. Are Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. right-hand-tail outliers because they're lucky, or because they're exceptional in some non-stochastic, deterministic way? No one will ever know.

12/15/12

econ:
TheBigCheese:
If we are talking the ridiculous rich than it is more of a case of luck They are clearly an outlier when compared to the majority and were in the right place at the right time with the right background.

A minor point, but being an outlier does not necessarily imply luck. Are Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. right-hand-tail outliers because they're lucky, or because they're exceptional in some non-stochastic, deterministic way? No one will ever know.

I know a lot of people in the tech field who work their asses off, but they don't have the right idea at the right time. Bill Gates has revolutionized the world and I definitely think he "deserves" his wealth, but the difference between Gates and all his poor counterparts is that he got 1) lucky to have the right opportunities, 2) his skill set and interests were in the right field at the right time and 3) he made good decisions. I don't see the difference between Gates and everyone else as hard work.

Michael Jordan absolutely worked hard. So do a ton of guys in the NBADL who are not as naturally gifted as Jordan. And the list goes on. For every super wealthy person there is a poor or middle class counterpart. My guess is that hard work is not the defining characteristic in super wealth or even super success; rather, good decision making, appetite for risk and dumb luck would probably be the separating characteristics.

12/16/12

DCDepository:
econ:
TheBigCheese:
If we are talking the ridiculous rich than it is more of a case of luck They are clearly an outlier when compared to the majority and were in the right place at the right time with the right background.

A minor point, but being an outlier does not necessarily imply luck. Are Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. right-hand-tail outliers because they're lucky, or because they're exceptional in some non-stochastic, deterministic way? No one will ever know.

I know a lot of people in the tech field who work their asses off, but they don't have the right idea at the right time. Bill Gates has revolutionized the world and I definitely think he "deserves" his wealth, but the difference between Gates and all his poor counterparts is that he got 1) lucky to have the right opportunities, 2) his skill set and interests were in the right field at the right time and 3) he made good decisions. I don't see the difference between Gates and everyone else as hard work.

Michael Jordan absolutely worked hard. So do a ton of guys in the NBADL who are not as naturally gifted as Jordan. And the list goes on. For every super wealthy person there is a poor or middle class counterpart. My guess is that hard work is not the defining characteristic in super wealth or even super success; rather, good decision making, appetite for risk and dumb luck would probably be the separating characteristics.

Let's stick with the Michael Jordan example for a moment (because I think it is very illustrative of this topic, in general).

I agree with you that tons of guys in the NBADL work very hard. However, I never claimed that Jordan got to his position solely by outworking other people. All I said was that it's probably not luck (it's a false dichotomy to say that we only have luck or hard work). You referred to Jordan's "natural talent" in your comments above, but in what way do you mean "talent"? Plenty of people were/are as athletic or even more so than Jordan, but they're nowhere near as good. Plenty of people also shoot the ball better than Jordan. It's also interesting to point out that nobody saw his "natural talent" as being good enough to be the best basketball player in the history of the game. He didn't even make varsity as a freshman in high school. Many people told him not to play basketball at UNC because they said he wasn't good enough. He was a #3 draft pick. Sure, people saw talent throughout his life, but most people didn't see enough talent to predict that he would wind up anywhere near as good as he did. If I had to try and characterize why Jordan is so great, I would say that his mindset plays a huge role. The guy is competitive as hell, and just has some sort of killer instinct. I wouldn't really call that luck. Again, I agree with you that it is not all due to hard work, but I'm just saying that I wouldn't call it all luck either.

12/16/12

econ:
DCDepository:
econ:
TheBigCheese:
If we are talking the ridiculous rich than it is more of a case of luck They are clearly an outlier when compared to the majority and were in the right place at the right time with the right background.

A minor point, but being an outlier does not necessarily imply luck. Are Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. right-hand-tail outliers because they're lucky, or because they're exceptional in some non-stochastic, deterministic way? No one will ever know.

I know a lot of people in the tech field who work their asses off, but they don't have the right idea at the right time. Bill Gates has revolutionized the world and I definitely think he "deserves" his wealth, but the difference between Gates and all his poor counterparts is that he got 1) lucky to have the right opportunities, 2) his skill set and interests were in the right field at the right time and 3) he made good decisions. I don't see the difference between Gates and everyone else as hard work.

Michael Jordan absolutely worked hard. So do a ton of guys in the NBADL who are not as naturally gifted as Jordan. And the list goes on. For every super wealthy person there is a poor or middle class counterpart. My guess is that hard work is not the defining characteristic in super wealth or even super success; rather, good decision making, appetite for risk and dumb luck would probably be the separating characteristics.

Let's stick with the Michael Jordan example for a moment (because I think it is very illustrative of this topic, in general).

I agree with you that tons of guys in the NBADL work very hard. However, I never claimed that Jordan got to his position solely by outworking other people. All I said was that it's probably not luck (it's a false dichotomy to say that we only have luck or hard work). You referred to Jordan's "natural talent" in your comments above, but in what way do you mean "talent"? Plenty of people were/are as athletic or even more so than Jordan, but they're nowhere near as good. Plenty of people also shoot the ball better than Jordan. It's also interesting to point out that nobody saw his "natural talent" as being good enough to be the best basketball player in the history of the game. He didn't even make varsity as a freshman in high school. Many people told him not to play basketball at UNC because they said he wasn't good enough. He was a #3 draft pick. Sure, people saw talent throughout his life, but most people didn't see enough talent to predict that he would wind up anywhere near as good as he did. If I had to try and characterize why Jordan is so great, I would say that his mindset plays a huge role. The guy is competitive as hell, and just has some sort of killer instinct. I wouldn't really call that luck. Again, I agree with you that it is not all due to hard work, but I'm just saying that I wouldn't call it all luck either.

Bro, Jordan was a 6'6" athletic freak. He probably wasn't 6'6" as a freshman in high school. He grew into his talent, even through college. The fact that he got a scholarship to North Carolina to play basketball speaks volumes about his natural talent that cropped up at least in the second half of high school.

There aren't "plenty of people" as athletic as Jordan. Like LeBron James, Jordan was an athletic freak.

12/17/12

DCDepository:
Bro, Jordan was a 6'6" athletic freak. He probably wasn't 6'6" as a freshman in high school. He grew into his talent, even through college. The fact that he got a scholarship to North Carolina to play basketball speaks volumes about his natural talent that cropped up at least in the second half of high school.

There aren't "plenty of people" as athletic as Jordan. Like LeBron James, Jordan was an athletic freak.

You're right that Jordan was an athletic freak (at least compared to the average person). But honestly, that's not as rare as you think once you get to that high of a level. The NBA, NFL, and NCAA are littered with athletic freaks. Some of them go on to be great players, while others don't. LeBron is more of an athletic freak of nature than MJ, but so far he's not anywhere near as great as MJ was. MJ's mental game is really what sets him apart. And then you can start listing off plenty of great athletes who didn't even have that much in terms of raw athleticism, such as Larry Bird and Doug Flutie. Anyway, that's just my opinion.

12/17/10

It's easy to work harder when your job isn't shoveling shit.

  • eyelikecheese
  •  12/17/10

Anyone can become a millionaire, but to become a billionaire you need an astrologer

-JP Morgan

12/17/10

I agree with the general concensus here that if we're discussing being further up the bell curve that's hard work, if you're at the far spectrum, that's mostly pure dumb luck.

12/17/10
Logger54:

I agree with the general concensus here that if we're discussing being further up the bell curve that's hard work, if you're at the far spectrum, that's mostly pure dumb luck.

Alright, but don't think that a person just ends up on the far end of the bell curve. If you want to call it "luck" then it is "luck" that someone already on the far end of the bell curve with lots of other hard working people was able to jump ahead of them.

"Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."

12/17/10

I don't think Daniel Kahneman's study gives a fair comparison. People making under $20,000 a year are typically hourly workers and most likely part-timers. If he looked only at poor people working full-time, I'm sure his results would be different.

In my opinion and experiences, average poor people work harder. Most of the time however, the reason they're not "richer" is because they're not working "smarter." Average poor people generally don't look for advancement and just focus on doing well where they're at.

I've seen some hard working waiters, janitors, customer service people, etc... that have incredible work ethic that I would hire in a heartbeat.

12/17/10
Kools:

I don't think Daniel Kahneman's study gives a fair comparison. People making under $20,000 a year are typically hourly workers and most likely part-timers. If he looked only at poor people working full-time, I'm sure his results would be different.

In my opinion and experiences, average poor people work harder. Most of the time however, the reason they're not "richer" is because they're not working "smarter." Average poor people generally don't look for advancement and just focus on doing well where they're at.

I've seen some hard working waiters, janitors, customer service people, etc... that have incredible work ethic that I would hire in a heartbeat.

I agree with you 100%. It's the hard workers that make the smart choices that go far. Just because you run fast doesn't mean that you're running in the right direction.

12/17/10

This is an interesting piece on income inequality, which, I feel, is pretty even handed. It also states that the top 1 percent works harder.
http://www.the-american-interest.com/article-bd.cf...

12/17/10

A base level of luck plays into everything in life.

I live by the mantra:

IF YOU DON"T TAKE A SHOT YOU'LL NEVER SCORE

I think this plays out for a lot of financially successful people, they work to put themselves in positions where things can fall there way. They work to maximize options also

12/17/10

First, I agree that the wealthy work harder, but you have to acknowledge that they have more opportunities to begin with. Life is a race and we all don't start at the same place.

Second, how do you quantify "working harder?" Obviously, poorer folks will have to do more physical labor and will thus probably work harder in a physical sense. On the other hand, white collar workers will definitely use their brain more.

12/17/10

IF YOU DON"T TAKE A SHOT YOU'LL NEVER SCORE

Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen

12/17/10

Carla was the prom queen.
...................Really?

"Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."

12/18/10

I think self-made rich people usually worked hard. However, that's skill hard to say. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg may not be the hardest working man, but he came up with an innovative idea and got rich. People who inherited from their parents usually don't work as hard. Obviously, most people who work in the blue collar jobs won't get rich no matter how hard they work. I do believe that on average, self-made rich people work harder.

12/18/10

For the most part, the rich certainly work harder than those without. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone (poor) say, "I'm taking my hour lunch no matter what and I'm not coming back 1 minute early" or something along those lines. I've always worked longer and harder than my co-workers based simply on the desire to do more...like many of you pointed out "driven" and things of that nature. I just know, anecdotal-ly, that the people I know that have done better in life are often the ones who stay just a little later and who often eat lunch at their desk just so they can get a couple of extra things taken care of.

To each their own. It all comes down to opportunity cost. I have friends swear up and down that they don't need/want an exotic sports car or expensive clothes/vacations, etc...but it's more likely they don't want to have to put in the work to get their. And that's fine, that's their choice, but it just irritates me when they act like they are more humble for not wanting more, or something of that sort, yet they are the first ones trying to get free entrance to the VIP area or free drinks/shots. Whatev, that's their choice. I will just go back to letting this hooker snort blow off my bean bag...man I work too hard.

Regards

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant, it's just that they know so much that isn't so."
- Ronald Reagan

12/18/10

Some of the work I do is in Post- Katrina New Orleans, and I sure see a lot of able-bodied folks sitting on the porch all day watching me work from across the street. And they all have TVs nicer than mine, so I am confident the rich work harder and smarter... And I'm lucky I didn't grow up in a culture that looks down on education and self-reliance.

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"

12/18/10

the line between rich and super-rich comes down to appetite for risk, factored in with some luck and creativity

12/15/12

I think people underplay the role luck has in their lives. I mean, yes, I would say that the rich work harder than anyone but just working hard doesn't guarantee anything in and of itself. It is simply setting yourself up for the opportunity to get lucky. If you think about it, everyone always says they'd love to start their own business. Small businesses in America have an absurdly high failure rate regardless of the effort you put into it. Plenty of great ideas end up bankrupt just because they came along at the wrong time. As with anything, you can't win if you don't play the game. Read all the stories of great entrepreneurs and businessmen and you will see a common theme; things just went right for them. They caught breaks, landed accounts, found investments etc, etc. Survivor bias is ridiculous when you look at those who made it big juxtaposed against those who didn't. At the end of the day you need to work your ass off and hope that the dice roll your way.

12/15/12

Rich people took actions that gave them a higher probability of getting rich than poor people. Statistical truism but all you can do is find mispriced opportunities in the world and seek to profit from them, if you want to be richer than the rest.

12/15/12

Jefferson was spot on

The very most successful people, the truly special ones, work hard and got lucky too. There are lots of things you just cannot foresee. The even more special ones are able to move beyond the hard work and have a great life/work balance. $1mm a yr sometimes is not worth the stress.

Take risks. Have balls. Work hard. The world owes you nothing - make yourself.

if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it

12/15/12

Here is my argument for luck playing a huge if not bigger factor:

If Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates were born into different families, say families with moronic parents living in poverty, would they be in the same position they are in today? If Zuckerberg's dad didn't teach him programming when he was a middle schooler or Gates parents didn't buy him a computer as a child (which back then was kind of like owning a helicopter) would they be the same guys? If they both did not attend high schools that on a adjusted basis cost ~30K a year, would they both still be billionaires?

Success is when you use hard work to capitalize on all the luck you have. You can obtain more luck by worker harder though (self-fulfilling).

Let's flip the script. Where do any of you guys think you would be if you were born into substantially worse/more impecunious families?

12/15/12

prudentinvestor:

Let's flip the script. Where do any of you guys think you would be if you were born into substantially worse/more impecunious families?

I see what this question is trying to say, but I don't think the question matters. We are born into what we are born into, and our interests are shaped by our genetics, socioeconomic status, geography, friendships, etc. If I were born 4 inches taller I probably would have played college baseball somewhere, which would have no doubt changed the course of my life.

The point is, our life is shaped by events. Whether those events are dumb luck/happenstance or ordained by a sovereign God of the universe, we're shaped by things outside of our control. One could easily say that Bill Gates is lucky because he was born with the intelligence to do what he did. Others could say he's lucky because his interests--probably shaped by his friendships and his experiences as a youth--happen to be in an industry that could make mind numbing sums of money. What if the same Bill Gates had been passionate about ballet because his friends were also interested in that during his formative years? What if Gates was born into a family that had $50 million and they pushed him into the family business rather than Gates having to meet certain people and work out of a garage?

Our lives are shaped by things out of our control. What we do with those life shaping events are where we're measured. If a man is born to poverty and he turns to crime as an adult then that's on him.

12/15/12

DCDepository:
prudentinvestor:

Let's flip the script. Where do any of you guys think you would be if you were born into substantially worse/more impecunious families?

Our lives are shaped by things out of our control. What we do with those life shaping events are where we're measured. If a man is born to poverty and he turns to crime as an adult then that's on him.

Well then by this logic, luck is inherently a massive factor if not slightly larger than hard work when determining magnitude of success. If you believe your life is shaped by things out of your control (which is inherently true) then there is effectively a cap on experience and opportunities. By that I mean, certain experiences lead to greater and better experiences down the road. An easy wall street example is IBD --> PE (I never worked in IBD but do work in PE so there are exceptions).

Each experience is the byproduct of another (possible axiom not sure) but due to things outside your control, a.k.a. your family, there is a cap on those experiences and what you can achieve.

Maybe I'm ranting but I can honestly say even if you work your ass off, there are a few things you will need to go your way that will be outside your control.

12/16/12

DCDepository:
If I were born 4 inches taller I probably would have played college baseball somewhere, which would have no doubt changed the course of my life.

Just to beat a dead horse, maybe if you were 4 (or even 6, 8, or 10) inches taller, you still wouldn't have played college baseball. I mean, it's really hard to know, right? Sure, being 4 inches taller would make it easier and more likely, but there are probably plenty of people your height who play college baseball anyway (and even make it to the pros), and there are also plenty of people who who are 4 inches taller than you and still fail to make a college team.

One thing I've noticed that people do, is attribute their failures to things outside of their control, such as height. (I'm not saying that you're necessarily like that DCD, I'm just using your quote to illustrate a point.) At the end of the day though, maybe it's that you're just not good enough. There are short guys in the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. Similarly, there are people with average IQ's who do great things intellectually. So while I agree with you that things outside of our control definitely influence our lives, I would still say that people have a tremendous ability to control their own destinies and reach their goals (often times even under somewhat shitty circumstances).

12/16/12

econ:
DCDepository:
If I were born 4 inches taller I probably would have played college baseball somewhere, which would have no doubt changed the course of my life.

Just to beat a dead horse, maybe if you were 4 (or even 6, 8, or 10) inches taller, you still wouldn't have played college baseball. I mean, it's really hard to know, right? Sure, being 4 inches taller would make it easier and more likely, but there are probably plenty of people your height who play college baseball anyway (and even make it to the pros), and there are also plenty of people who who are 4 inches taller than you and still fail to make a college team.

One thing I've noticed that people do, is attribute their failures to things outside of their control, such as height. (I'm not saying that you're necessarily like that DCD, I'm just using your quote to illustrate a point.) At the end of the day though, maybe it's that you're just not good enough. There are short guys in the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. Similarly, there are people with average IQ's who do great things intellectually. So while I agree with you that things outside of our control definitely influence our lives, I would still say that people have a tremendous ability to control their own destinies and reach their goals (often times even under somewhat shitty circumstances).

There aren't many 5'8" pitchers that play at a high level. Tall pitchers have an inherent physics advantage with the whip of the arm and angle of off speed pitches. Baseball is a game of inches and high major college baseball has plenty of 6' + tall pitchers who can throw harder to pick from.

Or, to use my example with your wording, if I had been born with more natural baseball talent I could have played college baseball. Really what you're doing is playing semantics. The point I was making was that I wasn't born with enough natural talent to play college baseball (at least for a meaningful college baseball program), hence that's an aspect of "luck". But if I had played baseball I probably wouldn't be where I am today (which is pretty well off), which is also an aspect of "luck" since I might have been worse off.

12/16/12

prudentinvestor:
Here is my argument for luck playing a huge if not bigger factor:

If Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates were born into different families, say families with moronic parents living in poverty, would they be in the same position they are in today? If Zuckerberg's dad didn't teach him programming when he was a middle schooler or Gates parents didn't buy him a computer as a child (which back then was kind of like owning a helicopter) would they be the same guys? If they both did not attend high schools that on a adjusted basis cost ~30K a year, would they both still be billionaires?

Success is when you use hard work to capitalize on all the luck you have. You can obtain more luck by worker harder though (self-fulfilling).

Let's flip the script. Where do any of you guys think you would be if you were born into substantially worse/more impecunious families?

I see your point, and you're absolutely correct to make it (at least to some degree). With that said though, what's your explanation for the huge number of people who are born into shitty families who reach very high levels of success?

12/16/12

econ:
prudentinvestor:
Here is my argument for luck playing a huge if not bigger factor:

If Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates were born into different families, say families with moronic parents living in poverty, would they be in the same position they are in today? If Zuckerberg's dad didn't teach him programming when he was a middle schooler or Gates parents didn't buy him a computer as a child (which back then was kind of like owning a helicopter) would they be the same guys? If they both did not attend high schools that on a adjusted basis cost ~30K a year, would they both still be billionaires?

Success is when you use hard work to capitalize on all the luck you have. You can obtain more luck by worker harder though (self-fulfilling).

Let's flip the script. Where do any of you guys think you would be if you were born into substantially worse/more impecunious families?

I see your point, and you're absolutely correct to make it (at least to some degree). With that said though, what's your explanation for the huge number of people who are born into shitty families who reach very high levels of success?

At no point did I ever say this was an absolute phenomenon or deterministic. But what percentage of people born into poverty stricken families reach the some arbitrary level of success (let's say becoming a millionaire) vs people born into a middle income family.

In addition, in a later post I wrote it is more helpful to have careful and non-moronic parents that provide a *mentally* stable home. That goes a long way. A lot of kids born into shitty families, have idiot parents that don't teach them anything, teach them to pursue goals while adulterating them with moronic ideas (ex. 13 year olds that smoke or have sex). Kids born into stable homes generally don't grow through that. This could happen at the upper income level too but realistically its concentrated at the lower income level.

There's a difference between being into that poor family where the dad is a drug dealer and the family where the parents are recent immigrants with no skills. Ceteris Paribus, the latter is more likely more stable.

12/15/12

Luck definitely has something to do in the equation. But the harder you work, the luckier you get. So work hard!

12/16/12

I think it's both hard work (~70%) and luck (~30%).
The rich I know seldom engage in aimless activities - work is life. You may see them playing pokers, dinning and drinking all the time, but it's usually with business partners/clients/politicians, and they can get deals done over the dinner table.
Meanwhile family means 'company'. A guy treats his wife as an employee - he's seldom home but gives $$ to his wife to operate a small business, and periodically wires bonus as a % of profit to her. He talks about nothing but 'to-do list' to her over the phone, quite hilarious.

The Auto Show

12/15/12

"Nothing is work unless you would rather be doing something else". I think, rich may not even consider what ever they do as work. may be they are addicted to the process of making money not the money itself.

It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

12/15/12

"Nothing is work unless you would rather be doing something else". I think, rich may not even consider what ever they do as work. may be they are addicted to the process of making money not the money itself.

It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

3/12/14

Edited

12/15/12

We are talking about luck only in the sense of the things that happen to you once you are already on the right path. How about luck in the sense of the situation you are born into? I'm not talking about being born into a millionaire family vs. born into an average income family. I'm talking about being born into a middle income family vs. being born into a poor family. The number of opportunities this potentially closes for you are drastic. There are certainly poor people who do not work very hard, but there are plenty who have been in a constant struggle to break free of a situation they were born into.

12/16/12

Black Jack:
We are talking about luck only in the sense of the things that happen to you once you are already on the right path. How about luck in the sense of the situation you are born into? I'm not talking about being born into a millionaire family vs. born into an average income family. I'm talking about being born into a middle income family vs. being born into a poor family. The number of opportunities this potentially closes for you are drastic. There are certainly poor people who do not work very hard, but there are plenty who have been in a constant struggle to break free of a situation they were born into.

I concur, those were the points of my posts. Like I said, I consider success capitalizing on your available luck via hard work but some people are just born with a lot more of it. Most never consider the fact they're lucky if their born into a middle income, stable family with good moral ethics/parents with common sense. Idiot parents will forever screw a person's future potential drastically in ways that are difficult to recover from.

I'm not saying poor parents can't be good parents per se, there are impecunious parents that made one too many life mistakes but instill a good work ethic in their kids while providing a "mentally" stable environment allowing their kids to prosper.

12/16/12

There are lot of people out there who work really really hard. Working hard alone is not gonna make you billionaire status either.
As Mlcolm Gladwell (outliers) mentioned , it takes 10,000 hrs to master any skills. If you consider billionaires, they all started out when they were kids. They started their journey to mastery when they were kid. What ever they did captured their imagination as well. They keep doing it and became great at it.

Richard Branson- Student Magazine at the age of 16
Bill Gates - learn to program in middle school or some where around that period
Mark Zuckerberg - same as Bill Gates
Bernie Ecclestone ( came from humble back ground) - lean to trade in his early teens. He learnt the art of negotiating at his early age.
Oprah Winfrey ( humble back ground) - her grandma made to memorize bible or sth; not sure what exactly; She learnt to talk or present what ever she want at her early age(interpersonal skills).
Tiger Woods - he started playing golf at his 6 or 9.
Steve Jobs- you all know
Warren Buffet - he started reading or investing at his early teens
Steven Spielberg -go figure
Dhirubhai Ambani - He used to control indian government, media and you name it, started early
Li Ka-Shing - started trading at 7 or 9
This is endless list

Having said that.....
I know some of you are on track to become one ( lets keep them aside)

Now why can't you do it? You (most of us) are already programmed by social norms and culture. We didn't have enough courage to go against the tide or follow our instinct. We are being distracted by zillion things, aren't we?

I think, people will become billionaire or successful in life as long as if they know what they are doing? why they are doing?, and willing to travel narrow road alone.

It's not about the money. It's about the game between people.

12/23/12

It's not just working hard, it's consistently working hard in the areas that will offer the greatest returns for that individual. A lot of it is luck, although not in the traditional sense of 'getting lucky.' Rather the person gets lucky by stumbling across the area(s) of greatest returns at a young age and is able to work hard at it. Socioeconomic class factors into this. It's a fact of life that some people theoretically could have been world class neurosurgeons, CEOs, or whatever, but they were never exposed to those opportunities at a developmental time in their lives.

Self-mastery is also a future indicator of success (and correspondingly wealth) because part of being human is often not wanting to do the very things that will lead to success. Just as we have the choice to invest or consume money, we do the same with time. A lot of people would rather consume their time and enjoy it now instead of investing it for future returns. This can go back to socioeconomic factors too... a kid who grows up in an area where all the successful/wealthy individuals are those who deal drugs as opposed to working hard in school will likely see little incentive to perform well academically.

12/25/12

Luck plays a huge role for the super wealthy but I would argue that Bill Gates or Zuck would be rich, not super rich, if luck hadn't fallen their way.

There was a comment that for every super rich person there is a lower middle class equivalent that didn't have the same luck... I don't agree with that, for every super rich person there are hundreds of rich people that didn't have the great luck fall their way.

If Bill Gates doesn't hit Microsoft at the perfect time, some other computer manufacturer picks him up for his talent and work ethic and he is pulling in a very handsome salary.

'luck' is relative. If I work my ass off and become a doctor, bad luck would be having a bad area to practice in and a lower 6 figure salary. If I decide that luck is more important than work and coast through college to sell life insurance, my good luck would be landing a big account and making six figures, bad luck would be losing my job.

You work hard to put yourself in a ballpark, you maximize where good and bad luck would leave you.

2/1/14

I think the poor work physically harder, while the rich tend to work smarter. The difference between rich and poor is the mindset they have on time. A poor person usually doesn't think in terms of leveraging there time for money. For example, a poor person will start a lawn business and try to cut as many lawns them self with in day light. A rich person will contract out cutting lawns to the poor mindset person in return getting significantly less per lawn, but he can cut an unlimited amount in one day.

I was raised being told that being rich has nothing to do with money in the bank; it's a mindset you have to develop, and over time the money is attracted to that mindset.

Luck does play a factor into financial wealth but you can become a millionaire over a lifetime just by handling money correctly no matter what kind of job you have. The few self made millionaires I know never had to get lucky to become millionaires. They just had the right mindset towards their finances and it happen for them over time.

2/1/14

IMO the difference between the successful and unsuccessful is persistence. Personally, I come from a non-target, and have a 3.0 GPA and I just received an offer from a solid regional boutique. I probably shot out close to 1000 emails, spend around 100 hours on the phone with bankers and received a helluva lot of "no"s. At any point in the process I could have said "fuck it" and given up but I persisted and got an offer. I'm not saying I'm successful yet but the point is you have to keep working until you catch a first break, work harder and catch a second etc. and never ever give up. Anyone could do what I did but not everyone will and that is what truly separates those who end in the higher tax brackets from those who don't.

2/1/14

Harder, maybe not, but definitely smarter.

2/1/14

People are talking about upbringing, but how would that account for the many,many cases of "awesome successful person and the loser sibling"?

1/23/16

Usually parents do not realize that they unconsicously treat each of their children differently.
They should give classes on parenting. I wonder if that would change the prevalence of "awesome successful person and the loser sibling".

It ain't what you know, it's who you know

1/23/16

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson? The short answer, she wrote, is you can't.
The longer answer amounts to one of the best explanations of success I have ever read. According to her it comes in two types: normal success -- involving hard work, talent etc -- and extreme success -- as enjoyed by her ex. The normal variety she recommends; the extreme version is only available to those who are born that way. "They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/13cf5fc2-e9cb-11e4-...

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

1/23/16

"I like money (as do most females) but love is...great :)"-student
"Perhaps you've failed to take into account my hidden assets"-007
Omnia

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