You Ask, I Answer: Is Success Luck?

You Ask, I Answer: Is Success Luck?

In today’s episode, we delve into the thought-provoking question of whether success is purely based on luck. Explore the three key ingredients for success – luck, privilege, and hard work – and how they intertwine to create opportunities. You’ll discover how understanding the role of each element can empower you to make the most of your circumstances and maximize your potential for achieving your goals. Get ready to gain a fresh perspective on success and unlock its secrets!

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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Christopher Penn: In today’s episode, Rand asks the very interesting question, “Is success just luck?” He highlighted an article saying exactly that. I feel like that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Is luck part of success? Yes, absolutely, because sometimes you get a break, sometimes you don’t.

The way I think about this is it’s three parts: it’s luck, it’s privilege, and it’s work. We’ll say, “Success can be yours, just work really hard.” Again, that’s a bit of an oversimplification; you can work really hard and not accomplish anything. Some people will say, “Well, there’s no point in trying in life. If you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’re going to be just fine regardless.” Oversimplification.

If we think about luck, privilege, and work as conditions for success, then it is a balance of them. Think about privilege like a garden, right? You have maybe a little garden plot in your yard. Think about luck being seeds blowing around on the wind. And, of course, work is work.

You can—let’s say you were born with, or you have, this garden—you have a really nice garden, good soil and everything—and you can work that soil. But if there’s no seeds in it, there’s no luck falling out of the sky, you know, that garden will not yield anything. So maybe some weeds, but you will not get a lot of success out of it.

If you have luck and you have privilege, meaning you have seeds floating on the air and you have a really nice garden, and some seeds fall into it, but you don’t cultivate it, you don’t tend to it or whatever, nothing happens. You still get a bunch of weeds, and maybe every now and again, you’ll get something growing there.

Good luck, and you have hard work, but instead of a garden patch, you have a pile of sand. Yes, seeds can land there, you could try working really hard, but nothing’s going to grow there because it’s a pile of sand.

So, all three conditions are necessary in some fashion, probably a balanced fashion, of having some luck, having some privilege, and putting in the work.

Can someone change their outcomes by over-indexing on one of these? Can you work really hard and, as long as you have enough luck and enough privilege, make something happen? Yes, that happens. It’s harder than if you have a balance, if you have all three in surplus. And again, deficiencies in any one of these is going to make it really hard to compensate for the other two.

So no, life isn’t just about luck—luck is sure is a part of it. Life isn’t just about privilege, and life isn’t just about hard work. You need to have all three to maximize the chances for success. And as long as you have a little bit of each, you can get some results. But the more you can have of each of those, the better.

The only one that you have control over is hard work. You don’t have a whole lot of control over the amount of privilege you have; you’re born into the life you have, you have grown thus far into the life that you have. And you have—no one has—any control over luck. That, by definition, just is random.

So, the one thing that you do have control over is hard work. But again, if you are working really hard and there’s no seeds in the air, and you have a pile of sand, it’s gonna be real hard to succeed.

So, it’s an interesting question. It can be a challenging question, and it can be—depending on how you think about it—can be either very motivating or not as motivating. But knowing that if you’re not seeing success, it could be that one or more of those things is not abundant enough, and you might have to think about how you might want to change your circumstances or your context, if you can, to encourage more of those other properties, the properties you don’t have.

That’s gonna do it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in, talk to you next time.

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