Does luck have any relation with one’s success?


Is luck or skill a heavier variable?

The American dream. The all-consuming holy grail of many American lives. The dream to be “rich and successful.” And of course, the first step is to work hard and get good grades. Society assumes the most successful are also the most competent, but could they just have been in the right place at the right time? The secrets of success may have more variables than just hard work, good grades, and ability. 

Success virtually defines a person in everyday life. In fact, the resources distributed throughout society solely depend on how much one thrives in life and the prosperity of their bank account. Resources such as work opportunities and fame often rely on past success, overlooking those who have been “unsuccessful” because of the risk that they may be inept. While passion and intellectual curiosity are one of many variables of success, numbers suggest that luck and opportunity have a big responsibility in the process of fortune. Harvard and MIT researchers explored the theory of global inequality of opportunity, and found that about half of the variations in income are explained by their country of residence and origin and the income distribution in that country. Investigations also indicate the significant relation between names and success. For instance, the display of middle initials increases favorable evaluations of intellectual capacities and achievements. Another concept comes into play – the name pronunciation effect. Several studies unveil evidence to prove this effect – easy-to-pronounce names are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names. Real-world implications, such as law firms, plainly display how people with easier-to-pronounce surnames occupy higher status positions. 

This hidden element of luck prompts the reasoning that the most successful people could be the luckiest people. Physicists Alessandro Plushino and Andrea Raspisarda collaborated with economist Alessio Biondo to investigate this phenomenon. They presented a mathematical model that would simulate the evolution of careers over a work-life of 40 years from age 20 to 60. They stuck a number of hypothetical individuals with different degrees of talent and skills and let their lives unfold. The simulation began with everyone having the same level of success, but every six months, an individual would encounter a certain amount of lucky events and unlucky events. When exposed to an unlucky event, their success would reduce by half, and when experiencing a lucky event, their success doubled. These success reductions and enlargements pertained to their talents to replicate realistic interactions between talent and opportunity. The finale of the simulation clarified the correlation between talent and success. In general, the individuals possessing more talent did have more opportunities to be successful. However, talent proved to be an insufficient variable – the most successful were rarely the most talented. The mediocre but fortunate turned out to be far more successful than the talented but unlucky. In that case, the conclusion looks clear; luck plays a big part in one’s success.

Without a doubt, luck definitely has a relationship with one’s success. This kind of luck can be explained in where one lives or their name. While talent contributes to success, more times than not, luck wins over and declares itself as a more significant variable.