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Is Success Luck or Hard Work?

The Hidden Influence of Luck

By Med KarimPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Is Success Luck or Hard Work?
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

During the unprecedented era of the COVID-19 lockdowns, a headline swiftly gained momentum across various platforms: "Nearly half of men say they do most of the homeschooling... ...three percent of women agree." This headline isn't raised here to spark a debate on who shoulders the most responsibility, but rather serves as a vivid illustration of a psychological phenomenon known as egocentric bias. This cognitive bias, prevalent among most individuals, manifests in the tendency to overestimate one's own contributions while underestimating the contributions of others. This tendency is pervasive, permeating various aspects of human behavior and perception.

For instance, studies examining multi-author papers reveal an intriguing trend: when authors are asked to assess the proportion of work they personally contributed, the aggregated percentages often exceed 100%, averaging around 140%. Similarly, in domestic contexts, when couples are tasked with estimating the division of household chores, the cumulative total routinely surpasses 100%. Strikingly, this bias extends beyond mere workload assessments; individuals also tend to attribute a disproportionate share of conflicts and shortcomings to themselves.

What underpins this pervasive bias? The answer lies in the limitations of human cognition. We vividly recall and experience our own actions and contributions, yet remain largely unaware of the full extent of others' endeavors. Consequently, our perceptions become skewed, leading us to overemphasize our own roles while downplaying those of others. This cognitive tendency not only influences our interpersonal dynamics but also distorts our perception of broader societal phenomena, such as the role of luck in shaping our destinies.

Consider the realm of professional sports, exemplified by the sport of hockey. While professional athletes may attribute their success to factors like hard work and determination, they often overlook the profound impact of chance events, such as their date of birth. Remarkably, statistics reveal a disproportionate representation of individuals born in the early months of the year among top-tier hockey leagues—a phenomenon attributed to age cutoffs within youth leagues. Despite the undeniable influence of luck in shaping athletic careers, athletes seldom acknowledge its pivotal role.

The pervasive influence of luck extends far beyond the realm of sports, permeating various facets of human endeavor, including career trajectories and socioeconomic status. A significant portion of an individual's success can be attributed to fortuitous circumstances, such as being born into a prosperous country or encountering serendipitous opportunities along the way. However, societal narratives often glorify notions of meritocracy, emphasizing individual effort and talent while downplaying the role of luck.

Acknowledging the interplay between luck and effort is paramount, particularly in highly competitive arenas where success hinges on a myriad of factors. Take, for instance, the rigorous selection process for coveted positions such as NASA astronauts. Despite rigorous assessments of skill and qualifications, chance plays a substantial role in determining the final outcomes. Simulation models demonstrate that even a modest factor of luck, comprising a mere 5% of the selection criteria, significantly alters the composition of the chosen candidates.

In light of these insights, it becomes evident that success is not solely a product of individual merit but is heavily influenced by external factors, including luck. Embracing this reality not only fosters humility but also cultivates empathy and gratitude towards others. Moreover, recognizing the role of luck underscores the importance of fostering environments that promote equal opportunities and reduce systemic inequalities.

Furthermore, acknowledging the role of luck in one's own journey can serve as a catalyst for altruism and philanthropy. By extending a helping hand to those less fortunate, individuals can pay forward the blessings they've received, thereby contributing to a more equitable society. Initiatives aimed at providing educational resources, such as the distribution of molecular modeling kits to underserved communities, exemplify the transformative power of such gestures.

In conclusion, while the illusion of control may offer a sense of agency and purpose, it is essential to recognize the inherent unpredictability of life and the substantial role of luck in shaping our destinies. By embracing humility, gratitude, and a willingness to extend assistance to others, individuals can navigate the complexities of success with grace and integrity, enriching not only their own lives but also the lives of those around them.


About the Creator

Med Karim

"When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go."

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