Mar
10
2009

Luck did not play a big part in Bill Gates' success

One of the theories in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers is that luck plays a big part in success, for example, having the luck of being born in the right place, or at the right time, or into the right family. However, my research shows that luck has very little to do with success. In my book Stupid, Ugly, Unlucky, and RICH there many examples of people who had incredibly bad luck, but they followed the Eight Success Principles and achieved extraordinary success.

During his speech on stage at the TED conference, Bill Gates attributed his achievements more to the sixth Success Principle – IMPROVE – than to luck. He said, “When I was young, I got to use computers. That was very lucky.” But then he highlighted a more important reason for his success: “I got to work at a computer company where, because I was pretty good, these senior people looked at my code and told me, ‘No, that’s not as good as it can be,’ and so I got better. And then I had another experience where a great developer looked at my code and told me how to do it better.”

Yes, making the effort to IMPROVE and get better at something was more important to Bill’s success than luck. After all, many other kids also had the luck of using computers in those early years, but they did not achieve Bill’s level of success. Therefore, luck was not the differentiator. The difference was that Bill got good at it, kept improving, and took it further than the others, regardless of the luck he had. So the good news is, our success is NOT determined by this thing we have no control over called luck. Our success is the result of doing things that we do have control over – the Eight Success Principles.


Click here to see Bill Gates interviewed by Chris Anderson at TED

bill-gatesinterview-at-ted

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Written by richard in: 06 IMPROVE |
  • http://freshperspectives.typepad.com/fresh_perspectives/ Mike Sporer

    Richard;
    I’ve always believed luck plays a small part. More important than that, however, is putting one foot in front of the other and moving along, improving on the way. “Our success is the result of doing things that we do have control over” says it all.
    Mike

  • http://freshperspectives.typepad.com/fresh_perspectives/ Mike Sporer

    Richard;
    I’ve always believed luck plays a small part. More important than that, however, is putting one foot in front of the other and moving along, improving on the way. “Our success is the result of doing things that we do have control over” says it all.
    Mike

  • http://www.gweipo.blogspot.com gweipo

    I think you’re misattributing the emphasis on luck of Outliers, in fact he says luck is a little part of it, it’s what you do with circumstances – i.e. take a lemon and make lemonade. He gives plenty of examples where people were lucked out (Jewish lawyers excluded from practising certain types of law for example), and just carried on and found their niche.
    There’s room for both of you on the ‘success’ band wagon!

  • http://www.gweipo.blogspot.com gweipo

    I think you’re misattributing the emphasis on luck of Outliers, in fact he says luck is a little part of it, it’s what you do with circumstances – i.e. take a lemon and make lemonade. He gives plenty of examples where people were lucked out (Jewish lawyers excluded from practising certain types of law for example), and just carried on and found their niche.
    There’s room for both of you on the ‘success’ band wagon!

  • http://andresitokun.squarespace.com andresitokun

    I watched this other great video (2 min long) on how luck doesn’t really give talent nor success. It is also very good edited.

    Talent = 10000 Hours + Luck
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtUuJo_DeyI

    So yeah, no mysterious god poke Bill and gave him talent and luck to succeed.

  • http://andresitokun.squarespace.com andresitokun

    I watched this other great video (2 min long) on how luck doesn’t really give talent nor success. It is also very good edited.

    Talent = 10000 Hours + Luck
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtUuJo_DeyI

    So yeah, no mysterious god poke Bill and gave him talent and luck to succeed.

  • EL AZDI TAHA

    First, I want to say that I’m not good at English. I’m from Morocco, I’m not a native English speaker, so I hope you can understand what I’m going to write.

    I really appreciate the way you make everything clear and always succeed in “materializing” complex and abstract subjects like the 8 principles of success and even the concept of SUCCESS itself. Your original method of analyzing eliminates a lot of the doubt that can waste our energy.

    We also waste energy thinking about LUCK because it’s unpredictable, and we can’t control it or apply it like we can the 8 principles. And it’s impossible to make a scientific, logical, structure or process that relies on luck, like the wonderful one you established for success.

    I don’t say that luck doesn’t exist, but it’s simply irrelevant when it comes to success and it has also no evidence in reality. It’s totally the opposite of what you discovered with the 8 principles, and what you proved in your extraordinary research.

  • EL AZDI TAHA

    First, I want to say that I’m not good at English. I’m from Morocco, I’m not a native English speaker, so I hope you can understand what I’m going to write.

    I really appreciate the way you make everything clear and always succeed in “materializing” complex and abstract subjects like the 8 principles of success and even the concept of SUCCESS itself. Your original method of analyzing eliminates a lot of the doubt that can waste our energy.

    We also waste energy thinking about LUCK because it’s unpredictable, and we can’t control it or apply it like we can the 8 principles. And it’s impossible to make a scientific, logical, structure or process that relies on luck, like the wonderful one you established for success.

    I don’t say that luck doesn’t exist, but it’s simply irrelevant when it comes to success and it has also no evidence in reality. It’s totally the opposite of what you discovered with the 8 principles, and what you proved in your extraordinary research.

  • Matt

    luck isn’t the differentiator when the context is a bunch of kids who by definition were already lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. but luck is the differentiator when you put bill in the context of all the other clever people who have improved as much as he has in other eras, where their talent didn’t align as sweetly with the environment. whichever way you look at it, both play a part.
    i believe that following your principles relegates luck to a bit-part player, instead giving you majority control. whereas relying on luck alone is like playing the lottery.

  • Matt

    luck isn’t the differentiator when the context is a bunch of kids who by definition were already lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. but luck is the differentiator when you put bill in the context of all the other clever people who have improved as much as he has in other eras, where their talent didn’t align as sweetly with the environment. whichever way you look at it, both play a part.
    i believe that following your principles relegates luck to a bit-part player, instead giving you majority control. whereas relying on luck alone is like playing the lottery.

  • Leszek Cyfer

    Richard Wiseman in his research on luck found that it too can be learned. Read “Luck Factor” :)

  • Leszek Cyfer

    Richard Wiseman in his research on luck found that it too can be learned. Read “Luck Factor” :)

  • Cindy

    THANK YOU. That was one thing in Outliers that really annoyed me. Too much credit was given to luck, and I’ve gotten in so many arguments over this. I am with you when you say that luck isn’t a huge factor. Everyone has some type of experience or occurrence that is special and unique. It’s whether you recognize it and do something with it that makes all the difference.

    But I wouldn’t mind reading Wiseman and how luck can be learned. Although I’m skeptical, it sounds interesting.

  • Cindy

    THANK YOU. That was one thing in Outliers that really annoyed me. Too much credit was given to luck, and I’ve gotten in so many arguments over this. I am with you when you say that luck isn’t a huge factor. Everyone has some type of experience or occurrence that is special and unique. It’s whether you recognize it and do something with it that makes all the difference.

    But I wouldn’t mind reading Wiseman and how luck can be learned. Although I’m skeptical, it sounds interesting.

  • http://www.howtowinthelotteryguaranteed.com How to win the Lottery

    Its not just all about luck. I mean not all things and the success that a person has right now is just because he/she got lucky. Yes it plays a part but it doesn’t determined what we are and where we are now. If you feel that luck is on your side use it to your success and improve yourself in every way. That’s how I see it. :)

  • http://snipsly.com/2010/03/27/helpful-ideas-on-how-to-win-the-lottery/ how to win the lottery

    You don’t become a multi-billionaire based on luck. Gates is a man who had a vision that had turned into a monopoly for most of 10 years. Good that he got out when he did as he accumulated $50 billion. Not bad based on luck ;)

  • http://how-to-win-the-lottery-tips.blogspot.com how to win the lottery

    i agree with you on billgates luck. but billgates’s effort pass through luck.

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    I really love your articles, it is very useful. I will definitely follow it, thanks and keep up the good work.

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    Thank you for so many and much information. It was fascinating to read. Thank you for sharing all these ideas with us and and keep up the good work.

  • Kurt

    Bill Gates, when asked if luck played a role in his success:
    ==
    Luck played an immense role. Some of it came after I entered the business
    world, but my lucky streak started much earlier than that.

    I was fortunate to have family and teachers who encouraged me. Children
    often thrive when they get that kind of attention.

    I was incredibly lucky to become boyhood friends with Paul Allen, whose
    insights proved crucial to the success of the company we founded together.
    Without Paul, there would have been no Microsoft.

    Our timing in setting up the first software company aimed at personal
    computers was essential to our success. The timing wasn’t entirely luck,
    but without great luck it couldn’t have happened.
    ==

    Gates also writes:
    ==
    “My friend Warren Buffett, who’s often called the world’s greatest investor, talks about how grateful he is to live at a time when his particular talents are valuable.

    “Warren says if he’d been born a few thousand years ago, he’d probably have been some animal’s lunch. But he was born into an age that has a stock market and rewards Warren for his unique understanding of the market.

    “Football stars should feel grateful too, Warren says. ‘There just happens to be a game,’ he says, ‘where it turns out that a guy who can kick a ball with a funny shape through goal posts a fair percentage of the time can make millions of dollars a year.’ ”
    ==

    The above should not be taken to mean that efforts towards success are useless because it’s all luck. I’m sure Gates would 100 percent disagree with that. As I see it, luck plays a larger and larger role the more “insane” a person’s success is. In other words, luck probably plays a much larger role being a billionaire than it does in achieving a six-figure income.

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