The Role of Luck You’ve Always Denied

The following speech was written by Jaa G10 as part of an English assignment.

Let me ask you all a question. How important is luck to your lives? The chronic beliefs of luck are difficult to assert; the factor of luck gets even more complicated when we realize that most of the people who are listening to me today may be sabotaging their luck based on their perceived notions about it.

Haven’t you come across people who are firm believers that success is achieved only through hard work? Hard work and talent are behind almost all success stories — but they simply aren’t enough. The hidden dimension of luck plays a greater role.

A number of books and studies in recent years including those by economist Robert Frank, analyst Nassim Taleb, and investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, have suggested that opportunity and luck play a great role across a number of fields: sports, arts, science, and business, to name a few.

Consider some findings: We want to believe anyone can become a CEO, but in Thailand, the reality is that some chances are heavily influenced by your birth month or your family name or if your name is closer to A B or C in the alphabet, sounds foolish right,? Well it’s not.  

Now, imagine yourself in 2 years, getting ready for college applications. Imagine completing your college admission tests and compiling your life-defining essays. Imagine submitting all theses different data pieces to your desired college. And then, 8 weeks later, imagine receiving that short, curt, college rejection email. Bummer….

Why were you rejected? It could be that you didn’t meet the school’s academic threshold, the school isn’t a good fit for you, or it could just simply be your “luck.”    

What if you studied extended hours on weekends and weekdays to take a prestigious exam but ultimately failed because of a traffic jam? You see… not even the most diligent efforts can guarantee future success. Your consoling friends ….. It was your luck.

Many of us seem uncomfortable with the likelihood that success might depend — to any degree — on luck. Have you ever heard anyone say, “(sigh), I’m so unlucky today?” This phrase shows self-doubt and the belief about the non-existence of luck. But recognizing that luck exists actually makes you luckier. You remember working hard, right? It’s because when hard working people think of their success the first thing that comes to mind is the time and dedication they need to put into a task, not the luck or the fortunate opportunities that enabled them to succeed. Simply telling successful people that they’ve been lucky makes them angry and defensive, as if you’re telling them they don’t deserve their achievements or recognition to be at the top. However, a team of researchers from Columbia and UCLA actually found that our beliefs about luck impacts our drive for success. People who acknowledge luck had a significantly higher drive for success than those who denied it.

Furthermore, a team of Italian physicists captured the role of luck and talent in successful careers in their mathematical model which stimulated the evolution of careers over a worklife of 40 years. They found out that, “ while talent was normally distributed, success was not.” They concluded that talent was definitely not enough because the most talented individuals were rarely successful; mediocre-but-lucky people amassed much more success.

And so my listeners, don’t underestimate the role of luck. A certain number of traits — including imagination, passion, perseverance — do significantly explain differences in success. However, the less explained idea of luck plays a greater role that we realize. Luck constructs our life stories and as J.K. Rowling says, “Luck can only get you so far.”


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