Building for Success vs. Building for Luck for Your Small Business

Building for Success vs. Building for Luck for Your Small Business

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Merriam-Webster defines “Luck” as an external force that brings circumstances into an individual’s life that either work for, or against, said individual in the form of good or bad fortune. Much is debated about how to succeed in business and the steps you should take to not become one of those startups that fail within the first one to five years. The role of luck and the degree of its impact on economic mobility is often discussed within this debate. For this article, I wanted to explore three perspectives on the “Lucky” argument and also offer my own personal analysis.

1. Luck Plays A Minor Factor

When factoring luck into the equation of economic success, there are three sides of the argument, with the first side believing luck plays a minuscule role in success and focuses more on the choices an individual makes along with the way said individual hones their talents or skills. Along with this reasoning, you might see statements like the following:

  • Former First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush: “You don’t just luck into things as much as you think you do, you instead build step by step.”
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”
  • Barbara Sher: “The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act.”
  • Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
  • Anonymous: “Luck is when opportunity knocks and you answer.”

The vast majority of the material coming from the multi-billion dollar New Thought Movement is designed support this first mode of thought, with the notion that luck plays a minor factor in success and it’s mainly all about an individual’s personal choices. From webinars, to church sermons, to speeches, to self-help material, to the law of attraction and books/films like “The Secret” which put all of the focus on an individual’s attitude or positive thoughts, it can be concluded that there’s an entire movement (with significant investment capital behind it) to get individuals to believe in the notion that luck plays a minor factor in their economic success.

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2. Luck Plays A Major Factor

The second perspective argues that an individual’s choices, talents, and skills were secondary to them being on the “right side” of life and/or having many “right things” fall in their favor (luck). With this in mind, you might see statements like the following:

  • Former President Barack Obama: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren: “People feel like the system is rigged against them and here is the painful part, they are right. The system is rigged.”

A recent study from the University Of Catania (Italy) utilized team simulations to model talent distribution along with random acts of good or bad fortune throughout the simulation, in an attempt to determine if luck or individual talent/skills played more of a role in economic success. Talent, skill, tenacity, and other factors, were distributed throughout the players and they were tracked using a 40-year professional working period. After going through the 40-year period, there was a final tally of wealth distribution and it was noted that the ones at the top of the wealth pile were those that experienced the greatest amount of “lucky events” throughout the period of time. Those that were most lucky were near the top of the wealth distribution pile, whereas those that were not as lucky, were centered towards the bottom, regardless of talent, skill, and work ethic.

3. It ALL Plays A Factor

Those from the final perspective believe that it ALL plays a factor. Basically, they believe that an individual needs to have a good amount of luck or good fortunes, but that individual also needs to be talented, skilled, networked, have good mentors, etc., and all of these things combined will lead to economic success. 

  • Senator Mark Warner: “My success was due to good luck, hard work, and support and advice from friends and mentors. But most importantly, it depended on me to keep trying after I had failed.”
  • Guy Kawasaki: “A good idea is about 10%, but implementation, hard work, and luck are 90%.”
  • Roger F. Tate, Jr: “The secrets to success are hard work and luck.”
  • Dennis Lehane: “The foundation of your life is luck. Hard work and talent make up the difference. “

Which Side Is Right?

Everyone’s experience is different, and there are certainly individuals who have experienced their fair share of luck, but which perspective do you believe?

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About the Author — John Tucker has over ten years of professional experience in Commercial Finance and Business Development. Tucker is also an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in Accounting, Business Management, and Journalism. To connect with John Tucker, feel free to send him a connection invite via LinkedIn at:

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