Pure Luck or Hard Work?

Pure Luck or Hard Work?

15/12/2006 - Catherine Sinclair
We have all heard the age-old discussion about whether the most unprecedented successes come from being in the right place at the right time, or whether it comes from hard work and dedication.

Thinking back through all your achievements and successes (and I am sure they are plentiful!) how many would you attribute to working tirelessly to achieve your goal, and how many would you say emanated from just darn good luck?

I do believe there is some merit in being in the right place at the right time, but what does it take to get to that place at just the right time?

I read an article from the Business Insider earlier this week about a guy called Michael Lewis. Graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Art History and soon after enrolled in graduate school at the London School of Economics. Lewis eventually landed a job on Wall Street at the Salomon Brothers (now incorporated as part of Citigroup) and is now a very successful, award-winning author (“Liar’s Poker”, “The Blind Side” and “Money Ball”).

During his speech at Princeton’s Baccalaureate, Lewis said all his fame and fortune was a matter of luck. He specifically refers to an evening after he graduated from Princeton where he was invited to a dinner party. Purely by chance, he sat next to the wife of a big shot at a giant Wall Street Investment bank, Salomon Brothers. After an evening of conversation and free flowing champagne, the wife, in Lewis’s words, “practically forced her husband to give (me) a job”.

Lewis was assigned the role of House Expert on Derivatives, a perfect position to earn some decent money and survey the growing madness of the financial Centre of the world, providing brilliant material for his true passion, writing.

Taking time to digest the above, was Lewis just in the right place at the right time, a chance encounter permitting endless possibilities? Or was it down to his hard work and good grades from a prestigious University, good family connections and an aptly timed dinner party invite?

If we take the view of Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, success and mastery can only ever come from hard work and practice in the form of 10,000 hours, or if you break that down, 5 years of dedication and focus! With Great Britain’s Paralympic medal achievements in Rio currently standing at 95 – a noticeable increase from four years ago at the London games – it would seem intuitive that it all boils down to training, single minded focus and dedicating 10,000 hours in that four-year gap.

When we conducted our most recent research investigating what it takes to have a Winning Attitude, the majority our hugely successful CEOs mentioned luck as playing a key role to their unparalleled standing in the world of business. However, when we dug a little deeper, it was not luck that got them to where they are now; it was maximising their opportunities.

“As an entrepreneur, timing is fundamental. It is the alignment of the stars, the right product, time, people combined with good fortune and the recognition that you have struck on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Clive Jacobs, Entrepreneur, Holiday Autos, Travel Weekly (UK) and The Caterer

“Luck got me into Eversholt Rail but it was ‘tenacity and hard work’ that got me to my position.” Mary Kenny, CEO, Eversholt Rail

If you have the attributes of a Winning Attitude – of which our research has identified 10, including the attribute of Maximising Opportunities (being in the right place at the right time with the right people) – it is merely a consequence of your hard work, effective networking, determination and focus to achieve your goal.

Perhaps someone who is not goal-orientated and does not have the ingredients of a winning attitude would not put themselves in a situation that would afford opportunities for the future, such as a dinner party with board level professionals in the field?

Essentially, what it is very likely to come down to, is creating your own luck. Luck is just a consequence of hard work.

While our CEOs alluded to luck playing a role in their success, contrastingly, our sports stars implied that luck never comes into it, they cannot and will not leave anything to chance.

A critical example of this can be seen from our Rowers, Sailors and Cyclists, like Adam Freeman-Pask, Lucy Macgregor, Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins, who are consistently fighting against uncontrollable elements such as the weather. So it is certainly not a case of right time and right place for them, especially when conditions involve pushing against 30mph winds and riding through heavy rains.

Their success emanates from years of single minded focus, dogged determination and unwavering belief. Without those key winning ingredients, we would not have the pleasure of witnessing the unbelievable and unprecedented success, as we have done over the last two months of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, isn’t luck, it is the consequence of years of hard work focusing on a goal and building the connections and skills to achieve that goal.

It is about your inner drive, focus and passion to succeed. So get out there and start maximising your opportunities!

Click here to read a summary & download a free copy of our Winning Attitudes whitepaper.

Written by Catherine Sinclair


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