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What is this new trend of belittling accomplishments down to luck? At the very least, thousands of people had the same opportunity to do what your boss did. And that's if we take your word that this is all he did, and he didn't negotiate at all or spend any time researching what products to sell, or take a loss in the beginning to provide good customer service for future gain. Even seeing the opportunity is a skill itself, millions of people will happily stay at their current job rather than take a risk.

>But like... he couldn't do again if he had to start from scratch in 2019. Things are different.

This is a losing attitude, a quick search of almost any category on Amazon will show more recent products that are China rebrands with thousands of reviews.

Here is one: https://www.amazon.com/JavaPresse-Grinder-Conical-Brushed-St...

You can find exact copies on Aliexpress for $10.

You can't prove it's impossible to do what he did today. Others are actively doing it.

>I think that's a bad trait :(

Being proud of your accomplishments is not a bad trait. Thousands of people had the same opportunities as him, yet he came out on top (or top 250, in your example).

What is this new trend of belittling accomplishments down to luck?

A need to balance out the notion that "anyone can do it".

> You can't prove it's impossible to do what he did today. Others are actively doing it.

There is a whole genre of get-rich-quick scammers claiming that exact thing:



Just because something is possible does not mean it is common. Why didn't all the hard-working software entrepreneurs from the 1980s end up like Bill Gates? Discounting luck and good timing leads to the Horatio Alger fallacy.

I don’t see how it’s belittling to acknowledge luck as a factor among many in success while also acknowledging the non-luck factors. You can be proud of your accomplishments while still acknowledging the influence of luck your success.

I think it's the difference between what comes first, the work or the luck and what's the dominant force.

If you study hard and get good grades, you might find yourself in a position where someone needs to hire for a role that you're already prepared for. Sure, there's luck in bumping into that person, but you worked hard to be able to take advantage of opportunities, so I'd say luck had very little to do with your success. If it wasn't this lucky break, there would be another one.

If you brush off school and happen to get hired by a boss that could care less if you do work of any quality, that's mostly luck and probably not repeatable.

Sure, Gates and Bezos experienced luck during their careers, but I'd be willing to bet that the dominant trait in their growth was hard work and intelligent decision making. Some people like to think of them as happening to be in the right place at the right time, but I think they worked hard to prepare themselves with the skills necessary to see those massive opportunities and were obsessed with moving as fast as possible towards their goals.

I view it this way: being smart and hard working is necessary but not sufficient to achieve the success they have. There are plenty of very smart and hard working people that are also dirt poor due to various circumstances. Maybe they have interests that don't happen to pay a lot of money. Maybe they are in locations where being smart doesn't pay off that much.

There is likely always some degree of happenstance, but there is also too much eagerness to chalk up success to luck, simply because others didn't succeed.

It's not as if the qualifications are simply to be smart and hard-working, and then a random drawing is held to determine the winner.

Instead, there are countless micro-decisions and actions that go into execution. The likelihood that any two people are executing an idea in exactly the same way is vanishingly small, even if they are both smart and hard-working.

The dominant trait was rich, well connected parents?

> What is this new trend of belittling accomplishments down to luck?

I don't think OP meant as black and white as you see it. There is some luck factor involved in many of the successful projects. What people should be wary of is thinking of it as a formula for success - add x and then y and voila you win. It is not that simple.

> What is this new trend of belittling accomplishments down to luck?

Many accomplishments are mostly luck? Japan Rugby beat South Africa in a 7s match a while ago. Are the players now entitled to call themselves better than those on the South African team? I mean, sure they could, but it would be obviously false, and nothing of value is gained. This reduces all the way down to “accomplishing” choosing lottery numbers.

> Many accomplishments are mostly luck?

This got me wondering how we might prove which accomplishments are luck vs skill.

Michael Mauboussin's 2012 book dives pretty far into separating luck from skill, worth checking out, or at least the more interesting online reviews / interviews.[0] It covers sports, investing, etc.

You can control the random seed in some games (duplicate bridge), but more often, you just want an enormous number of samples.[1]

Even with large sample sizes there are still debates (poker [2, 3], investing [4, 5]).

So if we come back and want to assess one individual life? No idea how confidently we can sort out how much was luck and how much was skill for anyone at n = 1.

It's like watching one poker hand. We can point to the cards. We can point out that they didn't make incredibly rookie mistakes. Beyond that? Who knows.

But then... I guess you could say... The guy who has played a million hands of poker is more skilled than the guy who played one.

By analogy, how good at this can any of us really be?


We'd all definitely be better at life if we had a few more tries.


Late comment, just had been mulling it, wanted to park it somewhere.


[0] https://www.wired.com/2012/11/luck-and-skill-untangled-qa-wi...

[1] True score theory: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/truescor.php

[2] https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/1130/finance-carnival-ari...

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jan/08/online-poker-b...

[4] Investors might have incredible careers only to face allegations of survivorship bias. I had some anecdotal source here but lost it over the last day of sleeping on this. Sorry. Here's a wikipedia page? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

[5] https://mathinvestor.org/2018/08/mutual-fund-performance-and...

I think the thing is, at any given time, there may be a thousand people trying to do the same thing at a certain level of competency, with only a few actually managing to gain any traction due to a combination of luck or timing.

Then these people say they were much better than the others, while objectively they were executing at about the same level.

If everyone does everything right, there will still be winners and losers.

The mythology is that hard work + cleverness = success.

The reality is that probability * (work + cleverness) = success.

The size of the probability makes a big difference. If it's too low you're likely wasting your time.

You can improve it with good business/sales techniques, but if it's tilted the wrong way you're always going to be fighting against it.

Objectively, you'd need to know the hit rate for specific business ideas/approaches/fields.

Realistically, some fields are more likely to be successful than others. Analytics, sales aids, and off-shore arbitrage are far more likely to make money than - say - software support for the disabled, or starting a band.

It is funny that the post ticks off all the things he did right, then concludes that he was lucky, primarily due to timing.

Yeah, maybe he couldn't do that on Amazon in 2019, but he might just as well not try, in favor of something more doable today. That is, part of what the OP calls luck is essentially the recognition of the opportunity, which in itself should be added to the list of skills.

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