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.