Hard work is not sufficient for success but it is necessary. Robert Frank, author of Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, in a recent discussion with Russ Roberts on EconTalk talks about why successful people are often reluctant to recognize the good fortune they have received. In regards to a question on the breakdown between hard and luck Frank, a self-acknowledged lucky man, said:
You know, I think it’s good that people take pride in the fact that they are talented, that they worked very hard. It’s not easy to work hard. That’s almost implicit in the term: ‘hard work’ is hard. And you’ve got to get out of bed in the morning when you might not feel like it; you’ve got to tackle not just the tasks you really like to do but lots of unpleasant ones, as well. So, feeling proud of yourself for the fact that you worked hard: that’s a good thing. Because pride is a motivator. It helps get you out there to confront the obstacles that, if you don’t confront them, you are not going to succeed. So, yeah: this is not a human pathology, that I think we tend to remember why we succeeded in the ways that we do. But there are some negative consequences to it. I think people do not spontaneously tend to remember the lucky breaks they enjoyed along the way.
That fact of the matter is we all make mistakes. We all face challenges. We all hit potholes along the way. Some are of our own making and some are due to simple dumb luck. However the correct response in either account is to keep plugging away. Fred Wilson at A VC drew this lesson from last weekend’s Masters:
And because golf is a microcosm of life, you can extrapolate this to everything that matters, your marriage, your family, your career, your reputation, etc. We are humans. We f*ck up. And when we do, we have to get up the next day and keep plugging away at the game of life. And the sooner we figure that out, the better off we all are.
Josh Brown at The Reformed Broker notes how we all can expect some bad luck along the way. In that light bad luck does not discriminate. Brown writes:
Every day we go out into the world to do what we’re supposed to be doing. Good things happen to us, or we make them happen. Bad things happen too. Sometimes we deserve it because of how we’re going about our day, usually we don’t. It’s unavoidable, in any case. Rich, poor, working, unemployed, black, white, Catholic, Jewish, young, old – everyone is in line for something, one of these days. And if the worst that happens is some damage to our cars, then we’re the lucky ones. We get to take our little beating and move along.
We all take our beatings from time to time. Sometimes it comes at the hand of Lady Luck other times it is by our own hand. Rather than curse your fate the only positive step is to keep plugging away and hope the next time around luck is on our side.