TIB #53: Your Succes: Hard work or Luck?

Written by Arno Jansen

In this issue, we will look on the influence of luck and hard work on your success.

In fact, I want to bring home the importance to recognise the influence of luck in your journey to success.


Because I strongly belief that our ability to understand the role luck plays, will actually help make the world slightly better. And I’ll share some practical tips on how to do that too.

Success & Self-deception

A fascinating thing called egocentric bias makes us think we do more and others do less.

For example, researchers asked people who live together as partners to guess the percentage of household tasks they each did. In almost all cases, the combined percentage of all partners in the household, exceeded 100%.

Similarly when collaborating authors of research papers where are asked about their contributions. Adding all percentages mentioned, on average, added up to more than 140%!

This is not overinflating our own amazing achievements. Turns out that we also overestimate the amount of fights we start with our partners or the mess we make in the house for example.

A potential problem arises when we take our contributions, good or bad, as gospel. Egocentric bias can hinder our empathy towards others.

Luck’s invisible hand

The internet is full of quotes and platitudes that promote hard work and hustle culture because only if you put in a lot of effort, will you find success.

While a thriving business is never the result of doing nothing, no amount of hard work entitles you to success in any shape or form.

Luck always has a hand in it. Let’s look at an example:

An illustrative example comes from ice-hockey players. Working hard and being talented are essential, but something else can also make a big difference. If you’re born in the first 3 months of the year, you have up to 4x higher chances of becoming a professional player. That’s due to the cutoff date for youth leagues.

An explanation for this difference is that kids hockey leagues have a cutoff date of January 1st. As a result, those born early in the year are older. This means that on average these kids are stronger and faster than the kids born later in the year.

Luck plays a large role in life, such as being born into a prosperous country, which can significantly impact income potential.

Now, consider the implications of all this if we are succesful in building our business. While many of us have talent and work hard, we have also been blessed with more luck than we realize.

All this hard work and success can make us think the world is fair, because we work hard. But then you only pay attention to the good stuff and ignore the bad stuff.

We lack the experience of those who have toiled hard but faced failure. So, we may perceive less successful individuals as lacking talent or diligence.

Luck makes you likeable

Recognizing the role of luck not only aligns us with reality but also enhances our likability.

Studies say that when we admit luck played a part in our success, people will like us more compared to those who only credit their hard work.

As Solopreneurs, luck can come in different ways. For example, when a successful entrepreneur shares your work on social media. It brings a lot of extra attention to your work, and may boost your visibility and revenue.

You may think that it’s the result of your ability to create amazing content. But the truth is you do not control when someone else brings attention to your work. Assuming you did not engineer the attention or paid for it one way or another.

So its both luck & hard work. Now what?

Knowing what you know now, how can you apply this new perspective to our work and life in general?

I suppose there are 2 seemingly contradicting, but equally powerful perspectives to take:

You have to operate from the belief that you have control over your outcome through talent and hard work

But it is equally important that you know that its not true.

For me, the conclusion is that hard work is a must. Your dream life, your business, and everything else in life, requires you to put in effort. And often a lot of it.

But at the same time, we must understand that we have been dealt a good hand. Even though it may not seem like it on some days. It is important to keep a healthy perspective on your accomplishments as well as that of others.

Acknowledging your luck, opens the doors to being a better human and giving back.

Therefore, let’s wrap this up with 6 practical takeaways:

  1. Cultivate gratitude. Take a moment to reflect on the fortunate events and opportunities that have contributed to your success. Acknowledge the role of luck in your achievements and be grateful for it.
  2. Avoid entitlement: Recognize that your success may not be solely a result of your abilities and hard work. Avoid feeling entitled or superior to others and practice humility.
  3. Empathy and giving back: Use your good fortune to help others who may not have had the same opportunities. Support those in need and contribute to causes that promote equality and well-being.
  4. Embrace uncertainty: Understand that success often involves an element of luck and uncertainty. Don’t shy away from taking risks or pursuing opportunities just because the outcome is uncertain.
  5. Be aware of biases. See egocentric biases in your thinking,. Where may you overestimate your contributions and underestimate others? Practice self-awareness and strive to see situations from different perspectives.
  6. Stay determined and work hard. While luck plays a role, your efforts and skills are also crucial for success. Keep working hard and stay determined to achieve your goals.

Before you go, this post draws examples from a book called “Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy” by Robert H. Frank.

If you want to learn more about how to increase your luck (you really can!), read Dr James Austin’s book “Chase, Chance and Creativity”.

Thats it for this one. I hope you find this a useful perspective to take with you and apply the takeaways in your day-to-day to improve your life and that of others.

Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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