Are ultra-successful people, you know, the one-percenters—are they simply the best at what they do, or did they have an extraordinary encounter with luck? How much talent does one need to break through his or her industry and become a household name? What role does luck play in the grand scheme of high-level success?
Before moving full steam ahead, let’s establish a working definition of success (material and financial). Success is the status of having achieved and accomplished an aim or objective at a level where one is widely recognized as an influencer and expert in his or her industry.
Per this definition of success, making “the” list would be folks like J.K.Rowling, George R.R Martin, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Shonda Rhimes, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Usain Bolt, Steve Jobs, Angela Merkel, Larry Page, and Richard Branson.
Are those individuals better skilled, more capable, harder working, or luckier than the rest of us?
In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author makes the case that the following factors lie behind the success of the best people in their fields: (1) a series of random events: (2) rare opportunities; and (3) external factors that are out of one’s control, e.g., a person’s birthplace and cultural upbringing, birth year, parents, and genetic predispositions.
In his book, Zero to One, Peter Thiel distills that enormous success is tied to the observance and practice of what he calls First Principles Thinking, i.e., creating breakthrough products that defy conventional wisdom; identifying unique ways of building customer value; and the application of new technology and interaction design.
I would argue that we can choose to make luck and hard work loyal companions. On the one hand, hard work is like a pickax; once you put it down, it loses its instrumental value. On the other hand, luck is beholden only to those who live in a continual state of preparedness.
Success of the five-star variety requires the religious exercitation of repetitive and focused action mingled with undaunted risk-taking.
Do you agree/disagree? What are your thoughts?