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What makes someone a success?

Is it luck?


Hard work?

Maybe. Maybe to all of the above. Maybe to a little of this, a little of that. I envision success as a combination of factors. For example, there are some who argue that circumstances, the family you’re born into, even the generation you’re born into create an immoveable destiny from which you can never unlock yourself. You are born into a station in life, and that’s where you’ll live and die. That’s partially true.

There are others who argue that you can do anything, that the only thing holding you back is yourself, and that the world is your oyster, if only you’re willing to work hard and persevere. That’s partially true as well.

Imagine for a moment that you’re an archer standing in front of a gallery where the targets whip by incredibly fast. Every so often, a bulls eye sails by and you have to fire an arrow at it and nail the target. That’s our metaphor for success, nailing that target.

For the folks who argue that success is only about hard work and nothing else, that’s like saying you practice your archery relentlessly, perfecting your abilities. When that target cruises by, you nail it.

For the folks who argue that success is predetermined by your station in life that you’re born into, that’s like saying that because of luck, the gallery is filled with targets, and as long as you aim the arrow in the general direction of the gallery, you’re bound to hit something and achieve success.

Here’s why both are partly right and both are partly wrong:

Luck and opportunity are very real parts of success. It’s a lot easier to hit a target when you have a wall full of them slowly cruising by than it is when you have one target an hour zipping by at a hundred miles an hour. The skill you need to hit a barn full of targets is less than the skill you need to hit that one opportunity.

Skill and effort are very real parts of success. You could face an entire room full of targets that are stationary, but if you’re thoroughly incompetent with a bow and arrow, it doesn’t matter how much opportunity is in front of you, because you’ll never hit any of it.

For someone facing the disadvantage of fewer targets to hit, you have to compensate with greater skill. You might get fewer opportunities in life, and so when each opportunity comes by, you have to be a better shot than someone with more advantages. That said, if you have the skill, when opportunity arrives, as long as you’re ready, you only need one shot to win that round, and then each subsequent success makes more targets available to you.

So how do you increase your chances of success? Part of it is indeed to skill up, to become more proficient with that bow and arrow. You do that by becoming expert in whatever it is you do. Part of increasing your chances of success logically must also include finding more targets to shoot at – and that’s what things like the digital age, disruption, and social media can do for you. Right now, because of how fast the world is changing, a lot of people are wondering how to operate in this age, in these new rules. They’re holding up targets for you to shoot at, because they want and need help.

The arrow is your expertise in your specialty, the part that generates the actual results.

The bow is your knowledge of things like social media that amplify your ability to project your expertise.

If you have the skills, if you have put in the effort to become expert in your field in what you do and in the disruptive technologies, you – for the moment – have a lot more to shoot at. It won’t always be this way, so take your shot while you can. If you’re not sufficiently skilled with our metaphorical bow and arrow, skill up as fast as you can.

Take your shot!

Photo credit: B. Sandman.

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