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Enough with the “I just got lucky” apologies for success.
It could be that people use the phrase as a ‘catch all’... when they really don’t know why or how they succeeded. There may very well be real reasons for the success, but it’s not always the case that people will know—or even question it.
I suspect being in the right place at the right time has more to do with the particular success than if the person is going to be generally successful. Obviously Bill Gates wasn’t going to create a software company in 1850, but he probably would have been successful at something. I don’t think it denigrates the value of intelligence and hard work to acknowledge the presence of good fortune in most success stories.
I feel the same way about the phrase “It could be worse”. It’s an extremely lazy way out of focusing on how to improve something, much like “Getting lucky” is a lazy way of explaining success.
I’m as allergic to false modesty as anyone, but I generally prefer “I just got lucky” to post hoc rationalization of success. And the latter seems to be the more common fault in technology and entrepreneurship.
Thanks for this. For those of us who aren’t from privileged backgrounds and don’t have the luxury of connections or parents who can take care of us when we fail (i.e., the “luck” of being born with social status), its good to know that in the end, dedication, hard work and cleverness is what really matter.
I completely agree with the spirit of what DHH is saying. However, I think the most important message as he states is that people shouldn’t blame lack of success due to not being lucky. That’s where the emphasis on this topic should be placed. Those that say “I just go lucky” or “I was in the right place at the right time” might just be trying to be humble. At least that’s what I take from Jim Collins book “From Good to Great”
To recap: let’s emphasize the message that luck is bullshit and that it’s not necessary for success.
Living to the age of 100 has a lot to do with the choices and decisions you make throughout your life, but there sure as hell is some luck involved…
Good video and great point. I too tire of hearing this – “so and so is successful because he was lucky.” These people only see the current state of the successful person or entity and like to make themselves feel better by attributing success to “luck” since luck does not make you take a hard look at yourself and your own shortcomings. They never saw the hundreds and thousands of hours of work that went into the success. Hard work puts you in the position so that when the opportunity (the perhaps “lucky” or random event) occurs, you are able to take advantage of the moment and succeed.
Not a lot of thought put into that video I hope. If it gets any traction you should attribute it to luck!
Thinki then spiki.
Try telling that to the kids living in slums in Puerto Rico, or the guys in Africa who never had the chance to go to school, or the people who have to give up a working life because their child has lukemia.
Luck IS a factor – so is extremely hard work and dedication. These people who work so hard try to also show that the other factor also is involved.
Things like ‘the secret’ tell us a lie which people like to believe: we ar ein complete control of our destiny. Well… that’s horse shit. Where and when you are born, the surroundings on which you have no grip whatsoever are also MAYOR influences.
But Joe Middleclass cannot ascribe their failure simply to not having luck…. that I completely agree with
I don’t often hear successful people say, “I just got lucky.” More often, I hear them say, “We did this and this and this, and fortunately, the timing was right, and the market was there for us.”
Success isn’t about being in the right place at the right time (i.e. “luck”). It’s about doing the right things in the right place at the right time. It’s about seizing opportunities that present themselves.
There is a tide in the affairs of men. / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries. / On such a full sea are we now afloat, / And we must take the current when it serves, / Or lose our ventures.
Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224
‘Success happens at the intersection of preparation and opportunity’.
koningwoning: totally agree.
There are people who are less “lucky” than others. And unfortunately, some people will have to fight a LOT more. And in extreme cases, it’s almost impossible for people to do what they would want to do.
Anyway, I think everybody got the point, and for the average guy, being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time is not a reason for success/failure. I can’t believe that someone can success just because of luck. The “lucky” guy certainly worked quite a lot to achieve what he did. Luck helps, but it’s really not the only factor.
I feel lucky every day to be a healthy, male, American born to supportive, intelligent, creative parents. Though 100% fortuitous, these circumstances have made it relatively easy to pursue a variety of endeavors. I’m not saying that “to make other people feel better”. I’m saying it out of a sense of gratitude that seems to be sorely lacking in younger generations.
As far as luck goes, I dig the line that goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
+1 Scott. Well said.
If you do something beautiful, blame the gods, not yourself.
(Biante, son of Teutamo, from Priene, some millenia B.C.)
Sean V. that was Gary Player, South African golfing legend, and I agree with that. I consider myself a mediocre programmer but I practice on my side project all the time and have bested better equipped programmers because of my extra time in the nets. Keep up the hard work everyone, but don’t forget to get enough sleep.
Luck is where opportunity meets skill.
I’ve actually found that letting staff work from home cuts down on a lot of the basic questions they ask me. If they are in the office, I get the “What about this?” “What do you think of this?” “Should I do it this way?” When they work from home, it’s harder to reach me, so I get the “Hey, I just completed this.” “Look over this because I’m done.” Or, “I went ahead and took care of this and already posted it/submitted/e-mailed the client to get their opinion”.
It’s amazing what people can do on their own once given a little room.
Luck definitely has something to do with it, success never comes becomes you just prepared, acquired new skills, mastered techniques, etc. You have to be lucky to some degree that when you acquired them you were presented with the opportunity for success. > Just like Scott, Ben. Geoff mentionede: ”... intersection of preparation with opportunity…”
A good book to read on this is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. There is a reason why majority of great hockey players were born in the early part of the year vs later. That has as much to do with their preparation and skill set as it does with luck.
Think about the 37signals products, would they have been as successful if you tried doing it in 1990? Maybe, who knows, but your success today was also dependent on “being at the right place at the right time” ex. Internet, SaaS, the high calibre team put together etc. etc.
Creator of Ruby on Rails, partner at 37signals, best-selling author, public speaker, race-car driver, hobbyist photographer, and family man.
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