Luck II

Luck II

I’ve wrote about Luck before, but I’m not sure I made my point as eloquently as I would have liked. Recently, I was having a discussion on Hacker News about the value of ideas. I made the following comment:

That’s exactly right. Ideas aren’t worth much. I like Siver’s article on ideas as multipliers. Execution and the ‘business side of things’ as you stated are what matters. If Zuckerberg didn’t execute like he did with Facebook, Facebook would’ve still have been a cute little toy project at Harvard. The idea of Facebook itself is pretty simplistic.

To which some individual called Zuckerberg lucky. He wrote:

He was also lucky, in the right place and time, and savvy enough to exploit his luck. Plus, the value of Facebook (and other sites mentioned) is the community and mindshare. You can’t just buy a Facebook clone and expect overnight success.

Fortunately, some other commenter came in and delivered my feelings on luck. Written better than I could have done myself:

This attitude bugs me a lot. There is probably a path for every single person in this country to make a million dollars in the next year if they were just “savvy enough” to take advantage of it. It seems everyone wants to diminish Zuck’s success by ascribing luck to it, but let me tell you something. Zuck executed the shit out of Facebook. Did the community and mindshare just come out of thin air?

There’s no good reason to believe that Zuckerberg is lucky at all. Saying he was in the right place at the right time has this tacit assumption that if he were somewhere else at the wrong time he would have tried the same thing and fell flat on his face.

It seems because Facebook is an outlier, people feel safe talking about the luck factor, but that’s meaningless because we all exist with individual circumstances, and by that measure everything every one of us does is based on luck. Instead, I prefer to ascribe luck to things that the individual actually had no control over, such as winning the lottery.

I love the part on safety. “People feel safe talking about the luck factor.” I think it’s an excuse for people. It’s much easier to comment or commend someone for being lucky than for actually busting their ass off.

What are your thoughts on luck?


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