Thursday, December 04, 2008

Success: luck, opportunity or something more?

I spent yesterday reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers: The Story of Success. His basic premise is that we do not get to be a success alone--our culture, community, privilege and even dumb luck play a part in making a success. He gives examples such as the best hockey players in Canada were mainly born in January or early in the year. Why? Because the cut-off date is early January and the kids born then are bigger and more mature. They get into the better teams and then with more practice and opportunity, get to be the best. The rest are not as good because they are smaller, less mature, and don't get the practice and attention that the older kids get. They will always be behind--just like the kids who get sent to school early in kindergarten. The older kids always do better in the class, Gladwell claims, and they never catch up to their peers.

Gladwell discusses computer whizzes like Bill Gates and Bill Joy, commenting that rather than just sheer genius, these two made it because they were born at the right time, had opportunity and just sheer dumb luck. How? Well both were born in the mid 1950's, and were just at the right age when the personal computer came along. Their success was about opportunity, Gladwell surmises, not necessarily talent. If you read the book, you will see that Gladwell's theories are more complicated than what I am laying out here, but for bevity's sake, I will not go into detail. Read the book if you want to know more.

My problem with Gladwell's book is that he fails to do much critical thinking when he lays out his theories of success; he doesn't let the reader know about research that does not support his theories and makes blanket statements that sound good, but do not necessarily hold up to critique. For example, do younger kids who start kindergarten early always fall behind their older peers and never catch up? Not necessarily. For example, here is a study suggesting otherwise:

The new study is a challenge to decades of research linking age to academic achievement that has led states to push back kindergarten entrance age deadlines and convinced more parents to start children later than the once-traditional age of 5.

Though older students have an early edge based on an extra year of skill development, the study maintains that older and younger students learn at the same pace once they enter school, based on a review of federal education data.

And it seems to me that the genius of some people like Gates or Joy is that they see opportunity where others see none. I know people who had the same opportunities as these guys but they did not see the computer in the same way that these two did. As a psychologist, I think there is something inherent in some people's personalities and mindset that allows them to make opportunities for themselves when others see none. My guess is that if Gates did not have the computer as his opportunity, he would have found another one and done well anyway. Gladwell wants us to think that success is not self-made and is mainly the result of communtity, culture and luck. He says that success is "grounded in a web of advantages, and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky--but all critical to making them what they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all."

Perhaps the outlier in all this is the ability to see opportunity where others see none. In my opinion, this makes someone an outlier, whether Gladwell wants to believe that or not. That said, the book is interesting and filled with some good information about what leads to success. It is worth a read.

Update: Soccer Dad points out in the comments a very good extract on the book in The Guardian.



Blogger javadoug said...

I heard that Gates was given the software from IBM for DOS, which he tinkered with to create MSDOS. Maybe that is right and maybe that is wrong, but one thing is for sure, he was a genius at marketing. I'm sure there is a lot of luck at play for people to become really successful, but then there are those who are moderately successful, and that usually isn't based on luck, but skill and lots of hard work.

I'm sure Gates did a lot of hard work too.

8:01 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gladwell's position is essentially a socialist one. I have friends who justify inheritance taxes on the basis that you owe society for everything you earn, just as Gladwell argues you didn't do it alone.

8:04 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


The book does talk about the role of hard work, but acts as if that is a result of being succesful i.e. people work hard because they get the break. I think hard workers make their own breaks.


I got a sense that Gladwell's book had a smattering of socialism behind its theories. It somehow, didn't sit well with me. He seemed to be saying that anyone with a decent IQ, given the opportunity would do well. I don't think that's the case. You could provide some people with all the opportunity in the world and they would squander it.

8:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the outlier in all this is the ability to see opportunity where others see none."


And where did the person get the ability to see opportunity where others see none?

He was born with it or otherwise obtained it in a way unrelated to hard work or his worth as a person or any other explanation on a Hero/Loser basis.

Which makes it pure luck.

8:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


Gladwell found that most of the people who did well also worked and practiced longer than others--to the tune of about 10,000 hours. That is not pure luck.

8:43 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have an ability to change things to some extent in your life, but another part of life is just luck (or lack of luck), kind of a dice throw.

If you send out tons of resumes every day and go to every interview offered, you are most likely going to find a job before a different person who just lays in bed and then goes down to the bar every day.

But other aspects of life are clearly luck, and there's no getting around that.

Another point: I'll repeat my assertion made in other posts here that MOST people have not "earned" their financial success.

Heather Mills is richer than YOU, but she didn't earn it. And for almost every person with money, there is a spouse with a stake in that money - and not all of the persons with money to start with "earned" it (obviously).

Repeat: MOST people have not earned their financial success, whatever "earning" means.

8:47 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Gladwell found that most of the people who did well also worked and practiced longer than others--to the tune of about 10,000 hours. That is not pure luck."


Well, I think a person born with a debilitating disease may not be physically able to work to the tune of about 10,000 hours. Being born with a hardy constitution is also luck.

Part of getting money is based on your own initiative, part is based on luck (I don't know the relative proportions).

And then there is a point of view that differs from the Hero/Loser view of much of American society. Take a deep breath, calm down and enjoy your life. If you have lots of money, be thankful.

8:50 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I USED TO have this viewpoint of "heroes".

I don't anymore. I don't worship or attribute God-like status to George Soros or Bill Gates, I really don't.

They may be smart people, but there are plenty of smart people with less money than them. So what.

8:53 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


Somewhere along the line, someone earned it. I agree that Heather Mills and those types do not deserve their money as it was taken from the state/court and awarded to her unfairly. However, those who inherit money from family members who made their fortune at some point from a good idea, hard work, or whatever are entitled to it if the person who made it gave it to them.

8:53 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... are entitled to it if the person who made it gave it to them."


Now you appear to be the champion of people who indisputably played no role in earning money. They got it through absolute, dumb luck (in the context of inheritance or gifts).

I don't know what "entitled" to that money means, I guess it means that you are going to advocate for them to keep it (while others - who HAVE worked for their money - have it taken away in the form of income tax).

8:58 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In any case, if I'm not going to worship Bill Gates or George Soros as heroes, I'm certainly not going to be worshiping an "entitled" heir or an "entitled" bubblehead who gets it out of a man.

They can be "entitled" all they want, though.

9:00 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


"Now you appear to be the champion of people who indisputably played no role in earning money."

If by "champion" you mean I believe that people should be able to keep money they inherited freely from others without the government or others trying to take it from them, then yes, I am a "champion" for those people or whatever you want to call it.

9:03 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If by "champion" you mean I believe that people should be able to keep money they inherited freely from others without the government or others trying to take it from them, then yes, I am a "champion" for those people or whatever you want to call it."



I stand to inherit a good chunk, so I don't really give a rip.

I hope, though, that you're advocating just as fervently for an elimination of the income tax. At least those people work.

9:06 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'll put it a different way:

I don't have any RESPECT for people who get handed money or for people (almost exclusively women) who take it from a spouse or any person subject to their manipulations.

And although that sounds obvious, it's not, because a whole lot of people seem to respect anyone with money.

9:10 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger javadoug said...

"I hope, though, that you're advocating just as fervently for an elimination of the income tax. At least those people work."

JG makes some good points.
I'd say we should all advocate for the FairTax. Read the book if you want to be convinced.

9:26 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

Heather Mills does not represent MOST people.

Luck does play a part, hard work plays a part, genetic gifts play a part in success. But I don't hear much about the role of choices and decision making. It seems that much of popular thought keeps grinding away toward the helplessless of the individual and family and the saving grace of the larger "society."
I realize that even recognizing the role of choice is somewhat dependent on what a person is exposed to at home and at school. But that is not a good enough reason to hide the secret that a person does make choices and decisions constantly, and that there is a wide variety of outcome based on those decisions.
I have been in a weight management class where the most successful person was a young woman with Down's. I have been in Mensa meetings with people who could not hold a job.
When I was teaching high school, I once played some audio of some motivational, positive thinking talks just to get a discussion going on this subject of success. One boy said I'd better not let his Dad hear that we listened to that. I knew that his dad had a bad case of victimitis, and I have often wondered if the boy heard anything that gave him a fresh perspective.

Gratitude is certainly in order. I didn't decide to be born into the family, nation, or situation in which I found myself. But what we start with is just that-what we START with. I show gratitude by developing, sharing, and passing on the gifts that I have been given. If family members, students, employees, or society at large are enriched that's fine by me.
But I do decide how to develop those gifts and Society can only tax the result.

9:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


"I hope, though, that you're advocating just as fervently for an elimination of the income tax. At least those people work."

As a libertarian, of course I advocate the elimination of the income tax.

BTW, I don't think just because one has money, they deserve respect, I never said that. All I said is that no one should steal money from someone who inherits it--be it the government or an individual. I could care less if people have money or not, in terms of whether or not they get my respect. However, just because someone is poor, I don't respect them more.

9:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Nearly 20 years ago, when my oldest son was an infant, I read an article in a parenting magazine that kids whose parents emphasized hard work did better than kids whose parents told them they were smart. The explanation seemed to be that one could almost always work a little hard, get up and try again when they failed, etc. but intelligence was seen as a limited quantitiy and if you weren't "smart enough" you just couldn't succeed.

This made sense to me and, while acknowledging their intelligence and otheer abilities, I've always emphasized hard work. They've done pretty well so far.

Gladwell may have a partial point with hockey players and birthdays. My son is born in late March. If he was born in June or later, he would be one year behind where he is now in school. He's already a top notch football player and the biggest guy on the team although only a sophomore. If he was this big and good as a freshmen, it would be scary.

My daughter's birthday is in May. The same goes for her. If she was one grade lower in school, she'd be the talk of the town on the basketball court. As it is she's still one of the tallest and a good player but not a head turner.

OTOH, my youngest sister was also born in May. She was not only the best player on her team, but 1st string all state and player of the year in Knoxville the year she graduated. But, she worked hard at basketball, 3-4 hours a day year round from 8th grade on.

Gladwll has some points but I agree with Helen more so. Hard work and realizing opportunities when they appear bring success more than luck.

9:49 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Brett Rogers said...

There are those who "create their own luck." Life is not some lottery, and while I agree that there are those who gain certain advantages through genetics, birth, location, etc. there's plenty of people who "dig their well before they're thirsty." 10,000 hours of practice... all the while without notice or pay or anything else. I think Glenn and Helen are good examples of that. Their current circumstances didn't just fall upon them. As is true with anyone with an eye for opportunity and a willingness to invest themselves and risk.

Helen, does Gladwell address risk tolerance at all? A spirit of entrepreneurial venture?

10:03 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

You're born with a set of traits. You sit on your ass and you'll die with a lesser set of traits. You apply yourself (the definition of work is not only physical) and you'll do something with those traits before you die.

True, a meteor can come down on your head. Bad luck. True, you can purchase a winning lottery ticket. Good luck. I'm not including events of that magnitude in my life's plan.

JG --

"I stand to inherit a good chunk, so I don't really give a rip."

"I don't have any RESPECT for people who get handed money ..."

Interesting conundrum you paint for yourself.

10:21 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

DAD, you were so wise to follow the advice about emphasizing the hard work. I worked in a gifted program (just the Gifted Art part) and I was amazed that so many very bright kids were paralyzed by fear of not being able to achieve their potential. I had grown up in a large family where hard work was EVERYTHING. ("You can get back to that book as soon as these clothes are folded...") But somehow we all went to college, several siblings have professional/advanced degrees and none are too impressed with raw ability.

You sound like a great Dad. The sports participation will help your kids as much as any class. Kids can see that even the most talented athlete has to practice and pay attention. Our kids were very involved in band. When they are home the only teacher they want to visit is their old band director.

10:23 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Wendy Aron said...

I think Woody Allen said that 90 percent of success is just showing up. Another way of saying this is that the successful persevere and are there when opportunity presents itself. As someone who sold a manuscript after five years of struggle, I can personally attest to this.

Wendy Aron, author of Hide & Seek: How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness

10:38 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, once again I recommend The Millionaire Mind, by Thomas J. Stanley.

Interesting story in that book about a guy who worked for an auto dealership that had sold a car to a junk dealer for $500 just to get it off the lot. Then later the dealership needed a used engine from that make and model to rebuild another car, so they sent this guy over to the junk dealer to buy one. The junk dealer sold him the engine from the same car he had bought from them for $500.

Lights went off, bells rung in the guy's head. The junk dealer still has the car, the frame, the doors and windows, the suspension, the tires and everything else to sell, and he's already made a full return on his investment.

So this guy quit his job at the dealership and started his own company selling used truck parts. Today he's a multi-millionaire.

Now, was that luck? No, that was smart. And that's the point.

People always say you should work hard to be successful. Actually, you should work smart and the success will come.

As to Bill Gates, he had a vision. He saw the potential for the personal computer but realized that it needed a common operating system to really work. He actually sent three written correspondences to IBM telling them to patent DOS, before someone else did. They ignored him, so he patented it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Was that luck? No, it was smart.

They say luck is 99% preparation and 1% perspiration. I say it's 99% inspiration.

Same with my mother. She started selling real estate in the early 1970s and made good money at it. Then in the early 1980s, the peso devaluation destroyed the economy down here in the lower Rio Grande Valley. There were over 44,000 foreclosures, and 1 out of 3 real estate companies went bankrupt and disappeared in the first 90 days.

So she started selling repossessed homes and not only survived but prospered. (Only 1 out of 5 Realtors are willing to do the work necessary to sell repossessed homes, so there's a lot of work but little competition.) When faced with growing bankruptcies and foreclosures all around, she saw an opportunity and took it. Now, 25 years later, she has built her company into one of the largest and most successful real estate corporations in South Texas.

Was that luck? No, it was smart. And she never attended an hour of college in her life.

I think Gladwell's thesis is flawed and presumptive. The world is full of far too many examples of people who started with nothing and made something for Gladwell to have any credibility.

And Dr. Helen is exactly right. It is the ability to see opportunity where others see none that is the key. Some people have it, some people don't. It's that simple.

10:40 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Interesting conundrum you paint for yourself."


Well, not really, since I haven't inherited diddly-squat up to this point.

I'm also not advocating for an "entitlement" of people to inherit money.

10:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I'm assuming that most of you here know that descriptions of how a person made a billion bucks are not always completely accurate. EVERYONE writes in retrospect that it was due to drinking lots of milk, putting his nose to the grindstone and [insert other virtuous adjectives here].

Sometimes reality is in conflict with these stories, however.

10:45 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:54 AM, December 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:56 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Brett Rogers said...


Personally, I don't think Gates' genius lies in invention. He is the epitome of the opportunist with an eye for talent and what works. Paul Allen got them the contract with the Alair, I believe it was, in the 1970's. Then they found Scott Patterson, if I remember correctly, and DOS was enshrined. Then he hired a bunch of whiz kids and gave them the incentive of shares in the company. Smart management practices and shrewd negotiating made Microsoft. He was able to wring the best out of his business partners and his employees in a time of opportunity. Is that luck? To Helen's point, that's just seizing the perceived moment and riding the hell out of it.

Anyone else could have done that. Others, such as Jobs, did it a different way. But arriving at the secret sauce is not accident.

11:09 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Jennifer - thanks for the flattery. I try.

GawainsGhost - I'll stick with the hard work comes first, smart helps. I like the car story. My oldest son buys used performance car parts locally and resells them on eBay. He makes about double what he paid. The inspiration was only momentary and would have meant nothing without his hard work to learn what parts are in demand and going through the effort to buy and resell them, all while he's attending college full-time and holding down a part-time job.

11:13 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Ern said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:15 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Ern said...

My opinion for a long time has been that Bill Gates would have been successful at any point in history, because he's smart and hard-working, but that he probably wouldn't have become the richest man in the world, which he was for quite a few years, if he'd been born ten years earlier or ten years later. He reached adulthood at a time when there was a huge boom in one industry. Luck, IMHO, certainly helps, but, as somebody frequently quoted has said, luck favors the prepared mind. I'd add that it also favors those who work hard. I say that as somebody who works, but not particularly hard, knows what that has cost him, and has been willing to pay that price in order to have more free time.

11:20 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Nick said...

I was born at the end of the year and right before the cut-off for kindergarten.. needless to say I was always the youngest and yet somehow most successful of all my classmates. I don't feel as if I was ever disadvantaged by my birthdate.

12:02 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

Nick, I would guess that your parents never used your age as an excuse. If they had had any idea that you would not have done well, they would have held you back for the next year. I don't think the idea that younger children in a class have trouble is well founded. I have even seen children treat the larger child as slower, as in must have been left behind.

I have asked for this Gladwell book for Christmas and I'll read it, but I'm disappointed already. I really liked The Tipping Point.

12:36 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Matthias said...

I agree with Helen on this one. The book seems to be dripping determinism. It wants to explain everything about success by what happens around a person rather than what that person does.

I have a friend who is highly regarded in Microsoft technologies. Yes, he "happened" to get a job working in those technologies and he "happened" to get training for them... just like another dozen people in his office. But then he worked on honing his skills at home and started a blog to pump out tutorials in that technology. The blog became popular and he now works at a much better company making twice as much. He's working on formulating a plan to start his own company teaching this technology.

Everyone around him had the same opportunities. But it was his initiative and drive that got the results.

It is when you combine exceptional opportunity with exceptional initiative that you get the real outliers.

12:48 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Brett Rogers,

"Helen, does Gladwell address risk tolerance at all? A spirit of entrepreneurial venture?"

He has a chapter on entrepreneurial Jews who go into the garment industry in NYC. One man searches around for some type of clothing to sell, sees a girl's apron and then reproduces it along with his wife and starts a large manufacturing business. Although Gladwell acknowledges that hard work and effort pay off, he says there is a perfect date for becoming successful in that field, since the NYC economy in the 1890's was desperate for the skills that garment makers possessed. Because the garment industry was growing by leaps and bounds and was entrepreneurial, Jews were drawn to it.

I am still confused after reading the book as to why other immigrants couldn't learn this industry. Apparently, they didn't have skills specific to the urban economy. Do people only learn things that they know about from their original culture? Seems a bit deterministic to me.

2:36 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger vivictius said...

"By the way, I'm assuming that most of you here know that descriptions of how a person made a billion bucks are not always completely accurate."

JG - You reall just sound like you are trying to justify why others succeed while you dont. You can claim others success in order justify stealing the product of their effort all you want but that wont make you any more a looser.

3:07 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger SBW said...

About Bill Gates -- what about the people around Bill Gates? I’m talking about people who worked for MS when it was just starting out -- some are now billionaires themselves -- all because they were in the right place at the right time. Did they take a risk, perhaps working for no pay for Bill while MS was just starting out? Sure, but lots of extremely intelligent people have worked for lots of start ups for little or no pay, and at the end of the day have nothing to show for it. Timing, or luck, is a lot more critical than most of the posters here are able to admit.

It seems discussions like these invariably bring up hard work. Yes, working hard, and/or studying intelligently, and barring unforeseen medical or familial problems, will almost invariably allow anyone to become middle class in the US -- no matter where they start out. One of the best aspects of this country.

And I mean middle-class, not wealthy.

But Bill Gates seems too easy. After all, disregarding stupid lawsuits from the late 90s, people are not being forced to buy his products – there are alternatives.

Dr Helen, were any financial leaders included in this book about success? (It seems from the examples provided success is defined as being wealthy, but I haven’t read the book).

A lot of wealth has been generated by favoritism to certain industries, i.e. the financial industry, either by passing as many biased laws as possible in their favor, money manipulation, or naked bailouts (go free market!).

If the author is truly deterministic that seems quite stupid, but to say that everyone who is successful in this country – and I’m most assuredly not talking about inherited wealth – earned it, is equally as stupid.

And by the way ‘Viv’, spare the pseudopsychology. I’m not sure about JG, but I'm not interested in wealth redistribution. What I am interested in and concerned about is leadership in this country, and the attitude apparent here that individuals who have become wealthy – who are ‘successful’ – are by definition competent leaders. Nothing I have seen in the last decade convinces me of that.

3:37 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger David Foster said...

Really interesting book came out lately by Sam Wyly, who stared with $1000 and devloped businesses in computer timesharing, data communications, steakhouses, and craft stores (Michaels)...especially the way he overcame obstacles that would have stopped many people.

4:02 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

In the book "The Millionaire Next Door," the authors identify many aspects of millionaires including "Most of us have never felt at a disadvantage because we did not receive any inheritance. About 80 percent of us are first-generation affluent."

When I look around at the millionaires I know, and we all know at least a few, I would easily go with the 80% earned it figure. My late father-in-law grew up dirt poor in Kentucky. He became a millionaire by working 12-16 hours a day as a farmer and being frugal to a fault. Although he had over 3,000 acres and was worth over $10 million when he died, he had never bought a new car in his life.

To focus on billionaires is to argue over exceptional cases that are so many standard deviations from the norm that there example isn't relevant. Truly in cases like Gates, everything fell into place plus he did work his butt off.

A better example, if you want to use a billionaire, is Carl Linder who dropped out of school at the age of 14 during the Depression, sold ice cream from his family's dairy business on the street and went from there. Linder's Bagels, Chaquita bananas, Great American Life Insurance, United Dairy Farmers, and more. Not much luck there. Just a guy with good business sense who worked hard and still does at the age of 89.

4:50 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

DADvocate, I think you mean Lender, not Linder.

For anyone interested in reading an excerpt of the book, it was published in the Guardian.

While Gladwell seems to be saying that being in the right place at the right time is important, he also seems to acknowledge hard work - see what he writes about music school. He also argues that Gates and Joy (and the Beatles, for that matter) all were able to reach the heights they did after working hard.

So I guess he does play down the element of genius. And perhaps he oversells opportunity too.

5:10 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Success is a mix of things. There is no disputing that hard work is a cornerstone of success, but it is not the only thing.

There are a lot of people who have great ideas for inventions or businesses that could yield big rewards as well, but they don't make it.

It is a combination of having the vision, working hard and then knowing how to utilize resources that makes the difference. Or so I would argue.

6:16 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger cerebus said...

Scanned the above thread, so sorry if this repeats anything.

Many of Gladwell's points are well taken. Accomplishing a great feat may well be happenstance. If someone accomplishes two such feats, however, the odds on their individual genius considerably improve.

8:39 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

Many people who have financial success do not have that as their primary goal. Many are creative, are passionate about their businesses, see their work as offering valuable serices, and continue working well beyond the usual age of retirement. I'm thinking of the people who don't even care what the money can buy in the way of luxury items. They seem to amass wealth not because they are greedy but because they are too busy doing work that they love to entertain themselves.

9:28 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Soccer Dad - I got the bagel part wrong. Everything else is accurate. Checked the bagels at Kroger's this evening. :-)

10:41 PM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:17 PM, December 05, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

I recall from my readings that the Greeks understood the importance of Good Fortune. Accordingly, one could be of the finest education, the best of births, the best of characters, and possess the finest morals; yet, without good fortune, such a life would be the meanest of lives.

You can be the finest of builders of wooden ships but, if the times changed to demand cement ships, you will be SOL.

Success depends on more than hard work: being in the right place at the right time; having the relevant network; having network/social skills to begin with; being able to please the gatekeepers to the opportunity.

You can work damn hard at your subject, get straight As, and the professor may even be recognized in his field; but, if the professor who has the network to get you into the profession teaches at the other college across town, you're screwed.

12:47 PM, December 05, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

Networking, being alert to the right place and right time, and paying attention to coming trends are all "good fortune" that can be learned to some degree. If a person wants to find excuses luck is always bad. But it is interesting that some people just have all the "luck."
If a well networked professor in my field is across town, I would high-tail it over there to audit a course, at least.

4:59 PM, December 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, cuz you're a billionaire, Jennifer, so you can dole out advice. The reality is that some man, somewhere, is probably paying for you. That's my experience with irritating polyanna types.

Otherwise, it sounds like a bunch of younger people here elbowing each other out of the way to show how much they know about earning money (in the future). You're all going to be the best in the future. In the future.

Something to think about is that money is a bit like sex: When you have it, when you have lots of it around you, it just doesn't quite seem as important as it did back when you didn't have any.

It's like you're all discussing your favorite Sumo wrestler and tips on how to get that fat. Who cares. Relax. Get rid of your anxiety problems.

5:27 PM, December 05, 2008  
Blogger Aaron B. said...

Of course luck and environment play some part in success. But Gladwell and other liberals have to insist that those are the only things that matter, to maintain their egalitarian, blank-slate, equality-of-outcome beliefs.

All the science contradicts those beliefs more every day; and we now know that, no matter how hard you work, if you aren't born with the right abilities, there are some things you simply can't succeed at. Liberals will fight that reality with everything they've got.

6:11 PM, December 05, 2008  
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