WSO's audience is incredibly motivated and driven to succeed, so I thought I'd reflect on success and the role that luck plays in it.
My argument is that a significant portion, if not all, of one's success can be attributed to luck. This has been discussed on this forum before and in books such as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, but I just wanted to reflect on this a bit more.
Let's start with a list of things that affect one's success, but are determined pretty much at birth:
- Your citizenship
- Your attractiveness (face, height, voice)
- Your race
- Your family and their wealth
- Your health
- Your personality (at least part of it)
Now, I'd argue these factors alone can explain all of one's success. Even things like work ethic which traditionally would be thought of as an example of something that one can control are really a function of luck.
Consider your attractiveness. If you are a good-looking guy, then growing up you probably were treated better and had more positive interactions with others. This means that you are also more likely to be affable and skilled with social interactions and therefore, more likely to succeed.
Now consider something like work ethic. As a society, we'd like to think that it is the industrious and innovative qualities of a person that makes him/her successful. So how does one become hard-working? Most likely, he had those qualities ingrained in him by his upbringing/family, which is determined at birth by luck. Perhaps he chose by accident to hang out with the right group of friends during recess in the elementary school playground and grew up with a high-achieving circle of friends that pushed him to work hard. Again, this is determined by luck.
What I'm trying to get at is that even things that we think we have control over (like how hard we work) are largely determined by chance. While past discussions suggest that at least a portion, even if small, of one's success is earned, I can't quite think of anything that someone can really "control"? I am thankful to be a Type-A, relatively hard working person. But did I really choose to be this way?
I don't mean to diminish anyone's success, I'm just curious to hear everyone's thoughts, counterarguments, etc. I also don't mean to imply that the just thing to do would be to equally distribute wealth to everyone since no one really "earned" anything. Society has a lot to gain from rewarding those who are lucky, as some of the comments have mentioned.