Success, Luck & Humility

The other day, I was reading a short piece in the New York Times titled Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do with Your Success. As the title suggests, the column talks about luck and the role it plays in the lives of the very successful, as well as in the lives of everyone else.

It’s interesting to note that some of the most successful and hardworking people we know, including the likes of Warren Buffett, acknowledge the role luck has played in their success. The writer emphasizes the importance of a sense of humility in acknowledging luck, and how it should go hand in hand with success.

While the column was generally very well written, what really struck home was the antepenultimate paragraph where the writer makes an interesting argument. He says that if people are willing to blame bad luck for something that was not their fault, they should also be willing to acknowledge and give credit to good luck when something has nothing to do with their efforts or actions.

“If bad luck exists and it is not your fault, so does good luck that has nothing to do with your efforts or actions either. And that is O.K. too.”

–Carl Richards

While the author talks about luck as an independent event that requires no real preparation (for example, buying the winning lottery ticket, or this news item from 2014 ), I think it is also important to acknowledge when luck and preparation/hard work go hand in hand (for example, acing a test, or getting a promotion at work). The following quote, often attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, sums it up best: “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”

The column concludes with a related piece of wisdom that is often lost on most of us in our daily lives. I highly recommend you take a few minutes from your day to read and reflect on this wonderful piece.