Many people will tell you that success comes with the perfect combination of talent, luck and hard work. But recent research from the University of Catania in Italy found that luck might have a lot more to do with it than you might think.
Luck vs. Hard Work
I grew up hearing paraphrased versions of the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
And while I’ve benefited from tremendous luck in my life and career — so many strange coincidences or 50/50 opportunities that happened in my favor — I also am fully aware of just how hard I’ve worked to be me.
To me, wealth and success are byproducts of long-term strategic implementation, great relationships and teamwork, and yes, a good bit of luck.
But I don’t believe that someone can’t be successful because of “poor luck.” That person’s disempowering mindset, not the luck itself, is the real reason.
If you believe your poor luck is inhibiting your growth and progress, you are powerless to change it.
Alessandro Pluchino and his colleagues have created a computer model of how people use their talent to exploit opportunities. They’ve studied this model to see how much luck has to do with it. What they found is that the most wealthy people are not necessarily the most talented -- they just happen to be the luckiest.
The model charts each person’s working life of 40 years. In this time, they’ll experience lucky events that can be exploited (with the right amount of talent) to increase their wealth and unlucky events (at random) that will decrease their wealth. At the end of the 40 years, each individual is ranked by wealth and researchers would study the characteristics of the wealthiest and wealth distribution.
When ranked by wealth, the distribution follows the 80-20 rule, in which 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the population. “The ‘80-20’ rule is respected, since 80 percent of the population owns only 20 percent of the total capital, while the remaining 20 percent owns 80 percent of the same capital,” the report reads.
However, the researchers also found that the wealthiest 20% were not the most talented. According to the simulation, the skewed wealth distribution came down to luck.
“Our simulation clearly shows that such a factor is just pure luck,” the researchers said. “It is evident that the most successful individuals are also the luckiest ones. And the less successful individuals are also the unluckiest ones.”
4 Steps to Changing Your Luck
1. Perform an 80-20 assessment of your obstacles. What are the top 20% of factors (i.e. money, location, family, relationships) that enable 80% of the obstacles? (Remember, even unpleasant surprises have a root cause. Explore those causes.)
Here’s how this 80-20 might look in real life:
• Mindset (Limiting beliefs): I can’t do this because I haven’t seen others around me do it.
• Inspiration: I lack sufficient inspiration to pursue challenging goals and take risks that would support my bigger, better future
• Knowledge: I don’t know what I don’t know -- how do I start when I’m already behind?
2. Focusing on that top 20%, choose one factor to focus on. Brainstorm or list all the possible ways you could mitigate, bypass or eliminate that factor — and capture everything, even the crazy ideas.
For the sake of this blog post, I’ll choose Inspiration from the list above.
• Search for inspiration outside my immediate context/environment
• Protect time to think and imagine
• Move away
• Read books
• Consume educational content online
• Study history / Read biographies of famous people who overcame their background
• Join online or in-person communities with people working on things I’m interested in
• Change jobs
• Spend more time with positive people
3. Evaluate your list and pick 1-3 solutions to test in the near term. (1 week, 1 month, 3-month intervals work well.)
Finally, I’d try these experiments, and measure how each affected my mindset and beliefs of what’s possible.
• 3-Month: Read 3 biographies of successful people who had a challenging background/upbringing or were affected by challenges due to cultural/socioeconomic factors. Compile a list of mindsets and success factors based on this research.
• 1 Month: Spend 30 minutes a day listening to TED talks and similar educational/inspirational content, ideally from a source you trust and admire
• 1 Week: Spend the first 30 minutes of your day thinking and imagining positive, fantastic possibilities. What would life be like if you had a superpower — and what would yours be? If you had a billion dollars and had to use it to solve a problem, what problem would you choose?
4. Repeat 2-4 and do not stop trying.
Most people fall into a trap at this step.
They try an experiment, or two or three, and then when they don’t get the results at the speed they expected or needed, they stop trying. It’s not for me. I’ve tried that already. I’ve tried everything.
To which I say: No, you haven’t. You’ve tried everything you’ve already thought of. What else can you come up with? What haven’t you tried?
Some experiments won’t work — and that’s okay. Doing something different is the real exercise here.
How inventive and creative can you be in the face of challenge?
How can you tap into your resourcefulness and resilience?
How you think matters. What you choose to think about matters.
If you think you’re unlucky, you’re unlucky.
But if you choose to think differently and experiment, you can begin creating a better, bigger future.