Success And Luck: The Influence Of Hard Work On Success

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‘Success and Luck: Good Luck and the Myth of Meritocracy’ examines the role of luck in success, claiming that success is much more due to luck than is generally believed. The book has the merit of offering both a very concrete analysis of the role of luck in success and an original approach to social justice. Robert H. Frank is not trying to bombard us with evidence, but to present a clear and reasonable argument about how the United States needs to invest in its public infrastructure and how ideas about our luck are prejudicial to society. The author’s writing is also very entertaining because he summarizes a lot of fascinating experiments to prove his points. He also uses many personal stories about himself and others to illustrate his ideas, these include two near-death experiences: a heart attack and a windsurfing accident. As much as I agree with the central premise, I think the author – Robert H. Frank – sometimes overstates the case that success is predominantly due to luck. I’ll try to make that point as clear as I can through this personal review, along with theoretical links.

Firstly, I would like to highlight a certain passage in this book, i.e. the link between luck and hardworking. The author thinks “talent and effort alone are rarely enough to ensure victory and he believes in almost every case a substantial measure of luck is also necessary”. (Frank, 2016, p. 3) Personally, I believe that success is mainly the result of hard work and perseverance. I feel this way for two main reasons. One reason is because I see success as something that happens gradually and only after a series of correct decisions and small victories. The experience of my boyfriend’s father is a compelling example of what I mean. With an abusive father and an absent mother, he didn’t always have an easy life, especially since they didn’t have much money to live on. Today, after hard work and perseverance, he is a successful entrepreneur that founded his company 10 years ago. He started very small by selling cars – Suzuki, Hyundai and Isuzu – in his one and only dealership. When these brands started doing well, he opened a second dealership and four years ago a third one. His company grew from a few salesmen and mechanics to a staff of dozens. While my boyfriend’s father might have been lucky at one stage of his company’s growth, the long-term success of his firm cannot simply be the result of good fortune. In that way I firmly believe success is always the result of hard work over a long period of time. The other reason is because success is the result of careful planning, research and education, all of which require a lot of work to achieve. For instance, we can think my boyfriend’s father was lucky that the brands he was selling were very popular. However, he was confident about his project and, he spent a lot of money and time on it. Again, this victory was the result of perseverance and diligence rather than luck.

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Frank also insufficiently distinguishes between luck and opportunity, and doesn’t seem to recognize that turning luck into success requires people to take action. A number of his examples of luck, some of which are drawn from his own life, are actually about the kind of support that friends and family give to each other. Early in his career, Frank was helped by the presence of a more experienced economist in his department, Ned Gramlich, who encouraged him to participate in several projects. He says in his book it is fortunate that this person was there at the right time, but this argument does not take into account the fact that Frank chose to take the mentoring opportunity that Gramlich offered him. So, this example is not about luck. Opportunities are often beyond our control, but our ability to seize the moment is often right within our grasp. We don’t create our own luck, but when opportunities arise, we can make the very best of them.

On the contrary, I sometimes believe that many discoveries and inventions are the result of pure luck. The invention of radioactivity by Marie Curie is a fine example of fortune. In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity by chance, a discovery that turned out to be fortunate. The following year, Marie Curie decided to devote her doctoral thesis to this subject. She reveals the ionizing properties of radiation and later with her husband, Pierre Curie, they were able to demonstrate the existence of radium and polonium radioactivity. And in 1903, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. If Becquerel didn’t discovered radioactivity by chance and Marie Currie didn’t decide to write a thesis on that subject, she would never been able to win the Nobel Prize and become famous and recognized in her field. Her fortune was definitely the discovery of Becquerel. Another example that Robert H. Frank raises in his book are career trajectories in acting. Again, it is with these kinds of examples that I tend to agree with the author’s vision. Consider an actor who from last five years is struggling to get recognized and waiting for a chance to be considered for a role in movies. One day during his stage performance, the chief guest is a film producer who gets spellbound with the act and offers him the opportunity he was waiting for. Here, it is the actor’s good fortune that really converts his years of struggle and hard work into success.

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