Hard work makes the most of good luck

 

Successful people who concede the role of luck in their lives are, sadly, rare. Trump, I would propose, is unlikely to acknowledge the role of luck in allowing him to reach his current lofty position. But as Robert H Frank points out in his recent LSE lecture, luck is important. Not least in where and to whom you are born. A study from New Zealand published today shows a very high predictability for people’s ultimate cost to the state that can be established at the age of just 3 years old.

Companies can be equally guilty of dismissing chance. The corporate ego rarely acknowledges the role of luck in its products or services proving to be precisely the right offer at the right time. There’s only so much control businesses can exert over the four Ps.

What confuses people about all this is that they believe it is an argument against hard work and personal — or corporate — achievement. It is anything but. It’s like the old joke about the [insert offensive stereotype] and the lottery ticket. The [offensive stereotype] prays to their god for a lottery win and then curses them when weeks later they haven’t won. The deity retorts “Meet me halfway. At least buy a ticket.”

Ultimately, there are two traps to fall into here.

Firstly, if your company has been lucky to date, don’t believe it will stay lucky. Start working now to make up for the day when your luck fails you. And for everyone’s sake, be humble and acknowledge your luck while it lasts.

Secondly, don’t work on the assumption that you will ever be lucky. You may feel cheated by those who seemed to sail towards success on an unseen wind. They may shout about how it was all down to their brilliance when you know better. But there’s nothing you can do to change it, so keep plugging away. Maybe your day will come, maybe it won’t. But you’ll never know if you’re not in a position to catch that wind when it comes.

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Tom Cheesewright