How to Make Your Own Luck
Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “The Outliers.” In it, he suggests that luck has a lot to do with success. Being at the right place at the right time is massively important.
Yes, personal characteristics–such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence– are important.
We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.
I’ve heard it said that Napoleon once asked, “is he lucky?” when asked to promote a General. I suspect Napoleon was thinking that successful people make their own luck.
a certain number of traits– including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience– do significantly explain differences in success, however that is not all it takes.
In recent years, a number of studies and books–including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Robert Frank— have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science.
Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters.
Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really important piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.
Consider some recent findings:
- About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country,
- Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career,
- The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth,
- The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months,
- Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments,
- The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people’s intellectual capacities and achievements,
- People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names,
- Females with masculine sounding names are more successful in legal careers.
The importance of the hidden dimension of luck raises an intriguing question: Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society?
One of the interesting things they found was, talent was definitely not the unitary path to success because the most talented individuals were rarely the most successful.
In general, they found:
mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals. The most successful agents tended to be those who were only slightly above average in talent but with a lot of luck in their lives.
They found the most successful agents were very lucky people with about average levels of talent.
“[I]f the goal is to reward the most talented person (thus increasing their final level of success), it is much more convenient to distribute periodically (even small) equal amounts of capital to all individuals rather than to give a greater capital only to a small percentage of them, selected through their level of success – already reached – at the moment of the distribution.”
Luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success.
The important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process.
The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success:
- a stimulating environment rich in opportunities
- a good education
- intensive training