What if 99% of success is luck?


What if 99% of success is luck?  Not just success in startups (which is what I do, teach, and write about), but also success in life?

If you are following this blog, you know I’ve been thinking about income inequality, digging into the questions of its root cause, and potential solutions.  But what if there is no solution, as it’s true cause is a series of random chances, some good and some bad, all of which can be summed up as “luck?”

I came across a great analysis this morning of the potential connection between talent and luck, Talent, luck and success: simulating meritocracy and inequality with stochasticity.

Don’t let the name or graphics (example above) scare you off.  Nor the length of the post.  What this analysis shows is that a good portion of success may indeed come down to luck.

The analysis uses a randomly assigned value of “talent” to each simulated person.  The results would be unchanged if we renamed this value to “parental income” or “childhood caloric intake” or “average GDP of home country” or any other measure that spreads luck around a community.

What is interesting in the conclusion is that a few simple rules that move wealth up and down based on random events labeled “good luck” and “bad luck” mimic the wealth inequality we see in the world.

That said, when I explain the “luck” that effects startups to my entrepreneurs, I point out that much of what we consider luck is simply the entrepreneur noticing an opportunity and grabbing it before its gone.  In the world of startups, you put yourself in a position to have good luck, it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere.

As someone with nearly a half century of life experience, and almost two decades of parenting experience, the same seems true in life in general.  Good luck happens to those that keep their eyes open for it.  Bad luck happens to everyone.

Perhaps the “talent” variable in the analysis is best described as setting yourself up to benefit from lucky events.  That is a mix of education, networking, and intelligence, along with bigger factors that are themselves a bit of luck like nutrition, society, and where specifically you were born and raised.

More on luck on Nautilus.

[Image from Flickr]
By "Luni"


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