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The lie of luck: Why success is is made up of more than chance

Ever look at someone and immediately discredit their fortune? No? Just me?

Am I the only one who sometimes feels like there are people who’ve gotten to where they are based on… well, luck?

Maybe it’s the cynic in me. Maybe I’m just a hater. But I’ll see someone on TV, think I can do a better job, then chalk their career up as nepotism or due to who they know. Anything other than what they themselves have done.

Even growing up, I remember seeing kids with better toys than I and thinking they were lucky to have parents who could afford that or in high school thinking everyone who had a car somehow was born into privilege. And, for the most part, I’m not alone.

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According to a 2016 Pew Research report, about half of 53% of Americans think circumstances beyond a person’s control are generally more often to blame if a person is poor, while about a third (34%) say lack of effort on their part is more often to blame.

In translation: it’s not my fault I couldn’t afford a car in high school and everyone that could was fortunate.

The wealthy disagree. The same study shows that high earners overwhelmingly credit their success to what they’ve done rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

The misconception of luck is that access, resources, privilege, wealth — or however else you want to categorize success  — are strictly guaranteed to a limited few, but lady luck, in one way or another, has been on all of our sides. In addition, not all random events lead to favorable outcomes.

While tempting, we shouldn’t discredit anyone’s success. There’s one thing to have a door opened for you but it’s another to not get kicked back out. There are wrinkles of luck in any success story you pick out.

What we must pay close attention to, however, is the hard work and preparedness that goes into the perceived “luck” we may be envious of.

Luck is for sure a thing. It’s just not the only thing.


There are some that look at Jaden Smith and see fashion designer, actor, rapper, and philanthropist, then there are others that look at Jaden Smith and see the heir to Fresh Prince’s throne and ultimate benefactor because of it.

The reality of Jaden Smith’s success, however, is a perfect blend of both. Jaden Smith made his musical debut alongside Justin Bieber in 2010 on the smash “Never Say Never.”

While one can point to Will Smith’s guidance and resources for that collaboration, it sure didn’t prompt his single “Icon” from reaching no. 3 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and 75 million views on YouTube just last year.

No matter who you are or where you’re trying to go, it’s going to take an effort to be successful. It’s why we shouldn’t dismiss the ones already at the top and it’s why we shouldn’t feel discouraged at what we’ve yet to accomplish ourselves.

No matter how untalented someone may come across, there is definite work being done to enable them to stay there.


A lot of times when we’re looking at something we call “lucky,” we fail to see all the behind the scenes work that goes into making that luck possible.

The lucky are lucky for a reason — they manifest their luck through practice. Luck favors the prepared. So when luck happens, it’s just a byproduct of what’s already been in motion.

Take Stephen Curry for example, when people see those crazy near impossible shots that he makes. While to you they’re lucky, a lot of it has to do with situations he purposely puts himself in during practice.

Here is an interview with Shaq on the retired player’s podcast back in 2015:

“All of them that you see on the floor aren’t the first time I’ve taken them. I practice kind of unorthodox, one-footers, unbalanced shots, hand-in-your-face, all of that stuff, I’ve done it before. So it’s muscle memory, but you’ve got to have confidence to throw it up there (and) hope it goes in.”

No way Steph gets lucky that many times. It’s a result of the what he does in the gym when no one’s watching that makes the luck possible.


The biggest problem with luck is that people use it as a crutch. I know individuals who’ve quit on a career, degree or profession because they felt someone nondeserving was ahead of them. Or even worse, I’ve seen people use luck as an excuse for why a profession wasn’t even worth trying.

Luck is indeed a part of success, no matter the level or endeavor. But what we should understand is that it becomes a part of our story with every foot we step in the proper direction. That’s how we get luck to work for us.

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Luck isn’t playing scratch-offs, hoping to get away with life’s shortcuts or a handout. Luck is the manifestation of all things working together for your good due to a consistent and positive direction toward a goal.

The lie of luck is that it isn’t for everyone and that we’re not eligible for its benefits. The lie of luck is that good guys finish last and that there’s not use to trying when others are afforded more favorable positions.

The life of luck is that it makes you. But the truth is that it’s very much assessable. It just starts with you.