LivingLuck is more important than talent and intelligence

Luck is more important than talent and intelligence

What does it take to be successful? Judging from the popularity of magazines like Forbes or Entrepreneurs, there is no shortage of interest towards these questions. However, there is a deep underlying assumption about what we think we can learn from them – from successful people -: their personal characteristics, such as talent, skill, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence, which are what have led them to where they are.

This assumption is not only extrapolated also in how we distribute resources in society, from job opportunities to fame, government grants and public policy decisions. We tend to give resources to those with a history of success, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

But is this approach correct?

Are the most successful people primarily the luckiest in our society?

New research simulated more than 1,000 college majors over 40 years using a computer model and found that good fortune – not talent, hard work, or passion – was the biggest success factor. Luck. The study is currently available to read on the arXiv pre-publication website, where it is awaiting peer review.

The scientists came to this conclusion after building a computer simulation that tracked the success of 1,000 virtual people over a 40-year career from 20 to 60 years old. As in the real world, these people had varying levels of talent, which could include traits such as intelligence, creativity, determination, ambition, and wealth.

These virtual people were also distributed with various “lucky” and “unlucky” events over the course of their career, randomly. When presented with a serendipitous opportunity, they could exploit their talent, intelligence, and skill set to move up the career ladder. In the real world, this “lucky moment” could be a chance meeting with an influential person in your line of work. But if a bad situation arose, equivalent, say, to an episode of illness, the virtual person would have a portion of his wealth taken away.

After the 40 virtual years had passed, the scientists classified each of the characters to see if they found any similarities between them.

First, they were able to confirm the “Pareto Principle” (or the 80/20 rule), which implies that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small percentage of people. In the real world, the eight richest men in the world own the same amount of wealth as the remaining 3.6 billion poorest. In the simulation, the 20 characters who rose to the best position had 44% of the total ‘success’.

They also found that talented people tended to be more successful than moderately gifted people but, interestingly, they were rarely the most successful overall. In more than 100 simulation runs, the character who “won” was considered a “mediocre agent.” This high-performing individual tended to be 128 times more successful than most talented characters.

As it is, the study seems to support previous research that suggests “that everything in life is luck .” For example, people with easy-to-pronounce names are judged more positively than those with more complex surnames.

Reference: Talent vs Luck: the role of randomness in success and failure. A. Pluchino, AE Biondo, A. Rapisarda. Arxiv 2018.https: //arxiv.org/pdf/1802.07068.pdf

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