Most successful people attribute hard work and determination to their success. But let’s be honest, a certain percentage of luck factors in as well. Nassim Taleb in his book, Fooled by Randomness, discusses how many successful people attribute their success to their skills. However when further analyzed it is revealed that more often than not it was randomness that got them their success more so than purely based on their skills. There is a world full of very smart and hard working people who fail every day because they were not in the right place at the right time.
An example of luck playing a factor in success is this:all things being equal, who will reach a higher level of success, someone born in a 3rd world nation to an impoverished family with no access to education or the internet, or someone born in an industrialized nation to an upper middle class family? What if you are born to parents who didn’t value education and spent their money as soon as they earned it vs. being born to parents who value education and taught you from your earliest moments how to work smart and manage your money well. Birth is the biggest luck of the draw.
There are even more subtle strokes of luck related to birth. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how 13 of the richest richest 75 people in history were born at about the same time and they were able to take advantage of the biggest economic expansion of America during the 1860’s to 1870’s. Another example of this are the Silicon Valley Billionares who started what was to become billion dollar tech companies.
Malcolm goes on to describe how if you are a 10 year old boy who wants to play hockey, you are better off if your birthday falls in January than if it is in December. Why? Because at age 10 age differences equate substantially into physical size and strength differences, older kids being bigger. Bigger kids, all else being equal, will dominate smaller kids on a hockey rink. And those with a small physical advantage early on will get picked more often to play and practice, and coaches will spend more time with them than other kids. This snowballs over time to be a large discrepancy.
I do feel that you can improve your odds of success by learning skills through reading, mentoring, taking classes, etc. The funny thing is that the world is also full of people who read books, participate in mentoring, and take classes, yet they still fail.
Malcolm mentions the 10,000 hour rule, deliberate practice, and masterful coaching as requirements to become great at something. Many people list determination, grit, intelligence, hard work, perseverence, and many other qualities as determining factors in success.
A long time ago it was thought that IQ determined success in life. Then came emotional intelligence (EQ). Now people are discussing grit as the secret to success. I feel it’s a combination of all of the above. Take whatever advantages yo can get. It all helps in the long run.
When it comes to knowledge and learning things on order to become smarter and thus more likely to succeed, I feel there are certain factors that need to be considered when learning any particular piece of knowledge:
     Is it correct?
     How do I use it?
     When do I use it?
You can learn blatantly inaccurate information and not know it. The internet is full of misinformation. So test everything you learn. How do you test it? You execute it correctly and at the right time. How do we do that? I would like to use my canoe analogy that I devised for this specific topic.
Imagine you are told that paddling a canoe will get you anywhere you need to go. Sounds right. So you take your canoe out onto the water and practice the technique of paddling. You are learning how to use that knowledge. The paddling technique. And by doing so you also prove that yes in fact you can get to where you need to go if you paddle your canoe. Now let’s add in the 3rd component, when to use the technique. Lets say you are carrying your canoe from the car to the water. Do you paddle then? No. Paddling on land won’t get you anywhere and could break your paddle. So use the paddling at the right time, when you are in the water. This sounds silly, but there is a time when the canoe is on land and a time when it is in the water. This simple example is showing how you need to use the right technique at the right time.
Now lets say you are on the water and you are paddling. All of a sudden you stop moving, even though you are still paddling. Come to find out you are hung up on a sand bar. Ok so here is another example of when paddling won’t get you where you need to go, even though you are on the water! We need to take context into consideration when applying techniques. Like when speaking a language, context is frequently used to convey meaning, and in different contexts the same word or phrase can mean something completely different.
In the long run when playing poker, skill will determine who wins the game. Because on average you will have good luck days and bad luck days – the luck averages out to a net zero. But the skill will determine your course over the long haul.