The Interplay of Luck, Effort, and Motivation in Achieving Success

July 19, 2023
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Luck wields a momentous influence over an individual's triumph. This assertion holds true, as luck opens doors to favorable events even when the odds are low. However, can we declare that only those blessed with good fortune can achieve success? What about the unfortunate ones? Luck shares a close connection with the probability of an event occurring, a probability governed by other factors. Hence, there may be alternative pathways to success that do not solely rely on luck.

Consider Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist at St. Mary's Hospital, who serendipitously stumbled upon the world's most widely used antibiotic. In 1928, upon returning from vacation, he noticed something extraordinary on an uncovered Petri dish near a window. This dish had been contaminated with mold spores, and Fleming observed that the bacteria surrounding the mold were dying. After extracting and identifying the mold, he named his groundbreaking discovery "penicillin" (Tan & Tatsumura, 2015). Today, penicillin is readily available and has aided countless individuals in battling bacteria. Some may argue that Fleming was merely lucky to find himself in that situation and spot the anomaly. However, his success in discovering penicillin was a result of more than just luck. Fleming had been engaged in research since 1906, twenty-two years before the momentous discovery.

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Moreover, during the initial revelation of penicillin, no one showed interest in Fleming's findings. He had to wait for eleven years until a group of researchers purified penicillin, and another year passed before the antibiotic underwent actual testing (Gaynes, 2017). Clearly, Fleming exerted tremendous effort in his research endeavors and possessed unwavering motivation that sustained him until he achieved success. Fleming's story is not unique; other accidental discoveries, such as insulin, iodine, the effects of nitrate on arteries, galvanic current, acetylene, and electroplating, were also influenced not just by luck, but by effort and determination (Humberstone, 1943).

In Fleming's case, his efforts shaped him into an experienced researcher, well-versed in the best research methods. His motivation to innovate allowed him to persevere until the opportune moment arrived. Thus, his efforts increased the probability of success, and his patience, fueled by motivation, allowed luck to strike. The rate of success in an individual is intricately linked to the skills and knowledge they possess, which can be obtained through effort. The more effort a person puts into learning, the greater the knowledge they acquire. Similarly, dedicated practice refines one's skills. Both skills and knowledge play pivotal roles in an individual's success. On the other hand, Taleb (2005) argued that luck is often mistaken for skill. This is erroneous since luck and skill are fundamentally distinct. Skill is a learned competence, while luck entails random fortune (Merriam-Webster, 2019).

Luck and skill can either complement or oppose each other. A study conducted on a group of students in Mathematics courses revealed that students with higher effort regulation, maintaining their efforts consistently throughout the study, achieved higher results than those with lower effort regulation (Kim, Park, Cozart, & Lee, 2015). This study supports the notion that effort can enhance the likelihood of success.

Another crucial factor impacting success is motivation, which goes hand in hand with effort, yielding fruitful outcomes. Without motivation, effort would yield no results, and without effort, motivation would wane. Motivation comprises the belief that success can be achieved. One would never invest effort without believing in their capacity to succeed. Research on students regarding academic motivation and success demonstrated that students' motivation was driven by their desire to witness positive academic performance (Niranjar, Wu, & Jenner, 2015). In this context, motivation acts as a catalyst, consumed at the outset of the process and replenished at the end.

To achieve success, one needs both effort and motivation, in addition to luck. Luck may provide the chances for success, but it is only a matter of probabilities. By exerting sustained effort fueled by unwavering motivation, individuals can increase the likelihood of success. Whether someone is born lucky or unlucky is of little consequence; the path they choose to tread determines their destiny.

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