robertogreco + luck   33

The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized - Scientific American Blog Network
"What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it's their personal characteristics--such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence-- that got them where they are today. This assumption doesn't only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

But is this assumption correct? I have spent my entire career studying the psychological characteristics that predict achievement and creativity. While I have found that a certain number of traits-- including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience-- do significantly explain differences in success, I am often intrigued by just how much of the variance is often left unexplained.

In recent years, a number of studies and books--including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Richard Frank-- have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science. Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters. Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really importance piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.

Consider some recent findings:

• About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country,
• Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career,
The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth,
• The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months,
• Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments,
• The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people's intellectual capacities and achievements,
• People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names,
• Females with masculine sounding names are more successful in legal careers.

The importance of the hidden dimension of luck raises an intriguing question: Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society? If this were even a little bit true, then this would have some significant implications for how we distribute limited resources, and for the potential for the rich and successful to actually benefit society (versus benefiting themselves by getting even more rich and successful).

In an attempt to shed light on this heavy issue, the Italian physicists Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Raspisarda teamed up with the Italian economist Alessio Biondo to make the first ever attempt to quantify the role of luck and talent in successful careers. In their prior work, they warned against a "naive meritocracy", in which people actually fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people because of their underestimation of the role of randomness among the determinants of success. To formally capture this phenomenon, they proposed a "toy mathematical model" that simulated the evolution of careers of a collective population over a worklife of 40 years (from age 20-60).

The Italian researchers stuck a large number of hypothetical individuals ("agents") with different degrees of "talent" into a square world and let their lives unfold over the course of their entire worklife. They defined talent as whatever set of personal characteristics allow a person to exploit lucky opportunities (I've argued elsewhere that this is a reasonable definition of talent). Talent can include traits such as intelligence, skill, motivation, determination, creative thinking, emotional intelligence, etc. The key is that more talented people are going to be more likely to get the most 'bang for their buck' out of a given opportunity (see here for support of this assumption).

All agents began the simulation with the same level of success (10 "units"). Every 6 months, individuals were exposed to a certain number of lucky events (in green) and a certain amount of unlucky events (in red). Whenever a person encountered an unlucky event, their success was reduced in half, and whenever a person encountered a lucky event, their success doubled proportional to their talent (to reflect the real-world interaction between talent and opportunity).

What did they find? Well, first they replicated the well known "Pareto Principle", which predicts that a small number of people will end up achieving the success of most of the population (Richard Koch refers to it as the "80/20 principle"). In the final outcome of the 40-year simulation, while talent was normally distributed, success was not. The 20 most successful individuals held 44% of the total amount of success, while almost half of the population remained under 10 units of success (which was the initial starting condition). This is consistent with real-world data, although there is some suggestion that in the real world, wealth success is even more unevenly distributed, with just eight men owning the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

[graphs]

Although such an unequal distribution may seem unfair, it might be justifiable if it turned out that the most successful people were indeed the most talented/competent. So what did the simulation find? On the one hand, talent wasn't irrelevant to success. In general, those with greater talent had a higher probability of increasing their success by exploiting the possibilities offered by luck. Also, the most successful agents were mostly at least average in talent. So talent mattered.

However, talent was definitely not sufficient because the most talented individuals were rarely the most successful. In general, mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals. The most successful agents tended to be those who were only slightly above average in talent but with a lot of luck in their lives.

Consider the evolution of success for the most successful person and the least successful person in one of their simulations:

[graphs]

As you can see, the highly successful person in green had a series of very lucky events in their life, whereas the least successful person in red (who was even more talented than the other person) had an unbearable number of unlucky events in their life. As the authors note, "even a great talent becomes useless against the fury of misfortune."

Talent loss is obviously unfortunate, to both the individual and to society. So what can be done so that those most capable of capitalizing on their opportunities are given the opportunities they most need to thrive? Let's turn to that next."



"This last finding is intriguing because it is consistent with other research suggesting that in complex social and economic contexts where chance is likely to play a role, strategies that incorporate randomness can perform better than strategies based on the "naively meritocratic" approach."



"Conclusion

The results of this elucidating simulation, which dovetail with a growing number of studies based on real-world data, strongly suggest that luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success. As the researchers point out, since rewards and resources are usually given to those who are already highly rewarded, this often causes a lack of opportunities for those who are most talented (i.e., have the greatest potential to actually benefit from the resources), and it doesn't take into account the important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process. The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success: a stimulating environment rich in opportunities, a good education, intensive training, and an efficient strategy for the distribution of funds and resources. They argue that at the macro-level of analysis, any policy that can influence these factors will result in greater collective progress and innovation for society (not to mention immense self-actualization of any particular individual)."
luck  meritocracy  2018  success  research  scottbarrykaufman  inequality  diversity  talent  serendipity  chance  society  misfortune  gender  race 
march 2018 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Slack's Stewart Butterfield, in His Own Words | Inc.com
"I'm going to end up with a lot more money than I feel like I'm entitled to given how hard I work. I see all kinds of people work hard all over the world, and some of them are barely making it. I don't just mean subsistence farmers. I mean people in the developed world who work multiple jobs, and because the cost of health care and child care eats up almost all of the living they make. To be clear, I don't have a better way in mind. I think the system we've developed, and the byproduct, of people who founded tech companies getting stupidly rich--I don't have a better alternative. It's something that can be addressed through tax policy. But I'm definitely very conscious of the role that luck and timing and race and gender play in all of this stuff. If I were a woman, it would be twice as hard to do what I do. If I were black in the U.S., it would probably be five times as hard. 

But also, there are early twentysomethings who work here--kids, from my perspective as a 41-year-old--who are going to make a couple million bucks. I think about the shitty jobs I had when I was 23. I worked as hard as they're working these days. There's something untoward, something incorrect--I'm not sure exactly what the word is. Wait, I know: unfair. There's something unfair in that."
stewartbutterfield  2014  startups  money  inequality  wealth  luck  capitalism  work  labor  fairness  unfairness  economics  poverty  race 
april 2015 by robertogreco
▶ Darius Kazemi, Tiny Subversions - XOXO Festival (2014) - YouTube
"Most people are lucky if they finish a couple side projects in a year. Last year, Darius Kazemi released 72, averaging one every five days. His projects fall under what he calls “weird internet stuff” — bots that generate random Amazon purchases, surreal metaphors, rap battle lyrics, pickup lines, and everything in between."
dariuskazemi  luck  creativity  xoxo  xoxo2014  2014  making  success 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats - Nick Hanauer - POLITICO Magazine
"Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

***

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer."

[See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI ]
inequality  comingrevolution  politics  economics  business  money  nickhanauer  disparity  us  plutocracy  history  capitalism  2014  luck  success  wealth  divineright  trickledowneconomics  minimumwage 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Manso: Jay Porter Interview #3, Part 2
[Also available here: http://jayporter.com/dispatches/san-diego-exit-interview-part-2/ ]

"I talk to people about this a lot. Because of the interviews we’ve done in the past, I know about the business, and I’m a Linkery booster. People tell me, “I really like the idea of the Linkery.” I say, “yeah, it’s an awesome idea.” But they say “I like the idea of the Linkery more than I like the Linkery itself.” And because it was a huge idea that existed in a very robust way, virtually, people could experience it without ever going there.

It was principally an idea. It was an Internet-operated idea. The thing was real, it was real people and real products, but the operations were very much facilitated by the Internet. Our fundamental marketing plan was to do remarkable things and share them in this very transparent way through a blog and by talking honestly about what we were doing. Which in 2005 was a radical idea for a restaurant.

The idea that you could start a blog and newsletter and get people into your local restaurant by saying, hey we got this one pig from this farm, and here’s what we’re doing in the kitchen today, and here’s who we want to win the soccer match…it all feels like Portlandia now, but in 2005 even Portland wasn’t doing it!

My background was, I had really followed where “Web 2.0” companies were going, and how they were communicating with their audiences, and how they were transforming the relationship between companies and their customers. And the Open Source movement really came together at that time. The essay The Cathedral and The Bazaar was such an influential thing for me, I think I read that right before we started the restaurant.

I read that. We probably read it at the exact same time.

Open Source was really catching fire. I was using all the Gnu tools because I was a geek. But it wasn’t long until, for example, my Mom knew what Linux was. Open Source was exploding. It informed so much of how I conceived of the business.

Even when, say, Michael came on as GM, or our chefs would start with us, that was just part of working for our business: We’re super transparent. We blog about things. We take pictures of things. Communication is an essential part of our jobs. We’re building enthusiasm for this kind of food. And then there was the part where we were finding farmers on the Internet, and saying, hey, we think you’re selling what we want to buy, or we think that you might be able to grow what we want to buy. And that was all very tech-driven.

But I think that, as with a lot of these kinds of projects, we also discovered the limits of this approach. Which was, it became too easy to consume the Linkery without actually experiencing the Linkery.

That’s also where I lost interest with a lot of the infrastructure of reviews and critics – I personally like the critics in town, but the infrastructure, including Yelp or whatever, is set up to treat what the restaurant does only as content to be reviewed, in order to generate more content.

Our online presence became its own, free, content that we were delivering to people who then added their own content around it, and then they sold it one way or another, without anybody ever just fucking eating a hot dog. And in the end, the guy who makes the hot dogs has to get fucking paid, no matter how many Yelp reviews get written, or how many articles get written about my blog post or whatever.

Now, the opportunity to build a new business from scratch is a great opportunity, and what’s become clear as we put the new place together is this: as a restaurant operator, I am not in the business of content. I’m not in the business of making things for people to write about. I’m in the business of creating fantastic experiences around local food. And, those experiences are really hard to have on the Internet. You gotta show up for that shit.

So we’re intentionally building our new restaurant to not have a strong online component, or a content-generation component.

But hey, if you want to pay me to write something for you, I’m happy to do that.

If you’re getting paid to write something, then that’s what you’re selling.

There’s a great quote from when Alec Baldwin had Seinfield on his podcast. Alec Baldwin says, “you could have your entire channel. Your own production company, you produce all your own shows, and you could be raking it in, because, it’s all produced by Jerry Seinfeld.” And Seinfeld says, “you could not even sell me that. You know why I wouldn’t do that.”

Baldwin says – I think in legitimate confusion – “I don’t understand.” And Seinfeld says, “because that’s not the thing. I want to connect with my audience. I want to write. That’s the thing.” And then he used this great metaphor, he says, “if you want to experience the ocean, do you want to be on a surfboard or do you want to be on a yacht? I want to be on a surfboard. People have a yacht so they can say, hey, look at my yacht.”

You realize the thing that you’re trying to do and the thing that you’re building have nothing to do with each other.

Yeah, I really misjudged. It started out as a really great way to distinguish ourselves as being different from other restaurants and to communicate what we were really about. It was highly effective for that. But in the end it became its own thing with its own overhead. I stopped feeding that beast a year or two before we sold the restaurant, I really just put up pictures at that point.

Which I think is an amazing thing about technology now. Instagram really is all you need. You can be like, “here, we made something awesome.” It takes you three seconds.

And now, the contextual cues make it clear what you’re about. In 2006, we had to really explain, here is what we believe, this is why we do this, this is who we’re buying from. But now, people understand a restaurant that blogs its ingredients and dishes. You could start a restaurant called “A Blog of Ingredients and Dishes” and people would know exactly what kind of food you serve.

Naming what farms you’re sourcing from and all that. People get it.

Yeah, it’s cool, I don’t want to eat differently than that. But there’s not much needed in terms of explaining what it’s all about. A Tumblr will do the trick fine.

You don’t need to host your own Wordpress blog anymore.

Do you know who Austin Kleon is? He’s really popular on Tumblr. He wrote a book called “Steal Like An Artist”.

I’ve seen that book.

He has a new book coming out called “Show Your Work.” Which I haven’t read obviously because it’s not out yet. But I’m already taking issue with it. Show your work, yes, because there’s real value in that, but that’s also work. To show your work, is also more work that isn’t your work. If you’re not getting paid for it, and if it’s distracting from what you’re actually trying to do, then don’t.

I just think a big thing right now is that, the Internet, and everyone who sits at work googling shit, and reads Facebook and their RSS reader – and I’m part of that Borg – it just creates such a demand for content that nobody’s ever satisfied. You’re not giving them enough free content.

This was a discussion that we’d have sometimes with people who wanted to review us, or write about us, or with Yelp or whoever. I’d say, you know, I don’t really care. I’m not in the business of giving you something to write about.

Look, a restaurant lives in an ecosystem of reviewers and there’s a give-and-take. It’s an environment, and you work with the restaurant media to make sure that they have enough content to keep interest in restaurants alive, and to keep their jobs going. And they in turn are respectful of the realities of restaurants, they don’t run hatchet pieces all the time. Those are the professionals, the professional restauranteurs and the professional writers, and they understand that this is how this thing works. There is a demand for written content and restaurant experiences, and together the restaurant media and the restaurants can create a really positive environment around it. The core professionals understand this.

But in a slightly more outer circle, there may be some slightly less sophisticated people, maybe they are working in the media – whether it’s print or small blogs or whatever – and some of those people really just look at the restaurants as ways of generating content. And when this happens, I’m kind of like, dude, not only do I not really want to help you with this, I don’t want you in my place. You’re not helping this guy, who’s sitting next to you at the bar, who just had a shitty day at work and he came to his favorite local place to be around friends and enjoy some food that he really likes – you’re not helping him have a better time. You’re not helping my employees do their jobs better or make a better living. You’re just kind of in here, trying to improve your own career on top of something that has nothing to do with you and that’s – that makes you kind of a dick.

Because he’ll be trying to create something, “there’s a narrative here”, and maybe there is, but it’s probably not what he’s going to write about…

There actually is a really interesting parallel with what I’ve been reading a lot lately, this kind of “new generation” of highly intelligent sportswriting. Writers like Spencer Hall of SBNation, David J Roth who started a magazine called the Classical…

I don’t know shit about sports, so –

Well, sports is just a way that society expresses itself. A lot of these writers see within sports how society is expressing itself and they write about that.

It’s a vessel to describe society.

So a topic that’s come up with some of these more interesting sportswriters is how sports now serves this purpose, for shitty media outlets to read narrative into everything. Today, nobody just scores a touchdown, instead the touchdown marks a point in … [more]
jedsundwall  jayporter  meta  metadata  making  doing  internet  content  sports  journalism  criticism  2014  interviews  narrative  storytelling  instagram  twitter  data  documentation  thelinkery  restaurants  process  austinkleon  alecbaldwin  howweowork  food  opensource  workinginpublic  nassimtaleb  privilege  luck  business  success  blackswans  emergence  jamesfowler  sethgodin  kurtvonnegut  vonnegut 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Money and Morality: Are the Rich Different? The Rich Buddha Weighs In | Ordinary Times
"The webcasted potion of the discussion ended with Matt Hutson suggesting that we’d be better off if we could shed the “just world theory rationalization”, and my suggesting that would result in our species as a whole sinking into an irreconcilable existential funk. After the HuffPo host signed us off, Matt, Paul and I chatted a while longer, and Paul had an interesting take.

What he said is that people at the top tend to see their position in the world as being earned, and people at the bottom tend to see their position as being a product of fate, and that both groups probably over-emphasise the role agency or fate in their circumstances, and he has some research data to go along with the observation. What he suggested is that what’s important is maintaining a balance between the two views, to realize the circumstances of our birth are accidental, as are many of the things that happen to us between birth and death, but that along the way we do have the opportunity, if we take it, to alter the trajectory of our lives, for better or worse.

What I realized in that moment is that a lot of the writing and rumination that I do is a long-running version of the Serenity Prayer, but rather than being a mediation in service of overcoming addiction, it’s a meditation in service of urging myself to take best advantage of my circumstances and what agency I have, without losing sight of the fact that what agency I have rests on a foundation of happenstance."
wealth  circumstance  happenstance  2013  money  serenityprayer  agency  luck  fate  success 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Kevin Slavin: Debunking luck
"Pioneering gamer Kevin Slavin takes the PopTech audience on a colorful tour of the history of luck in America, games of chance, gambling and mathematical formulas. "That's amazing, the idea that anything that seems to be built out of chance or instinct or luck can yield to a computational assault.""
2013  kevinslavin  games  play  history  luck  statistics  saschapohflepp  crispinjones  mohansrivastava  shingtat-chung  dariuskazemi  boardgames  gametheory  dice  jacksonlears  stanulam  nicholasmetropolis  georgedyson  computing  johnvonneumann  edwardthorp  teetotums  chance  meritocracy  jasonrohrer  unpredictability  success 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Privilege Is Like Money: Reflections From France - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"Privilege is like money--when you have none it is impossible to get and when you have more people offer it to you at every turn. Last week, in short order, I treated with Tim Pawlenty, met Annie Lennox, and greeted Elena Kagan on my way out of town. And then I flew to Chicago and watched everyday people lose their lives. What haunted was the barrier of tissue paper I felt between the cold world and me. I saw families living in disorder and squalor, living in fire-traps built by men who should be prosecuted by the city."



"But the game is rigged. Let me tell you how I came here. I write for a major magazine and this is a privilege. I would say that it is earned, except that many people earn many things which they never receive. So I shall say that it was earned and I was lucky. I shall also say that my whole aim when I write is to blow a hole in that great forever, to make you feel the particular fire that burns in me."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]
ta-nehisicoates  2013  privilege  luck  psychology  work  hardwork  economics  perspective  france  paris  wealth  success 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Neil Gaiman: Keynote Address 2012 | The University of the Arts
"The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police."



"People get hired because, somehow, they get hired."



"To all today's graduates: I wish you luck. Luck is useful. Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get. But there is luck, and it helps.

We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.

Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we're supposed to's of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are.

So make up your own rules."

[On Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI ]
neilgaiman  luck  howwework  freelancing  art  making  glvo  2012  commencementspeeches  life  living  worrying  rules  breakingrules  creativity  uncertainty  freedom  mistakes  failure  success  commencementaddresses 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Hiut Denim - Our user manual
"12, Judge the business over the long-term. The early years are never easy.

It takes time to build a business. The first couple of years are inevitably tricky. The basic systems and the infrastructure all have to be built up from scratch, the customer will have to be found, and the product refined. It is a time when the business is both time and cash hungry.

But we should not be quick to judge the business. It should be given time to grow slowly. Patience is what will be needed. Hard work takes time to show the fruits of all that labour.

We should view a young business as we would a young child. It needs love, time and a set of rules to adhere to. It will make mistakes, it will fall and it will need the parents to be there for it as it grows and becomes its own person. We should not make too many demands on it when it is young, let the child play for a while.

It will grow up before we know it.

[There is no #13?]

14, Lets not underestimate the importance of lady luck.

Luck matters. You can have a great product, a great team, and an idea how to change things, and still fail. All businesses need luck.

The best way to get luck on our side is to work hard at what we love doing, and have ideas that haven’t been done before. And be honest with people, keep our word, and sometimes do things for people without expecting anything in return.

The other aspect to luck is its close cousin called talent. To have a feel for what the customer wants, to imagine something that doesn’t exist, to come up with something that captures a zeitgeist, well, that has little to do with luck.

These two things are often confused with each other. But both are vital to success.

15, Stay independent. Stay in control. (See point 1&2)

It is important to be in control of your own destiny. William Blake said it best “you need to create your own system or be enslaved by another man’s”.

The reason our independence is important for us is that it allows us to shape the business by what we feel is right, it can grow at a pace that the company feels comfortable with, it can make decisions for the long term, it can do things that make no sense to the bottom line at the time, but may well do in the future.

This may mean that our company will not be the biggest, but it should ensure the company stays true, creative and loved. And, importantly, that it will keep making jeans in this town when there will always be cheaper places to make them.

I will settle for being great at this thing over being big at this thing."



"17, Make us all proud of the company we own.

We measure things mostly in numbers. But there are other important ways to measure how well a business is doing. These are things like ‘Are we proud of it?’, ‘Is it loved?, Is it insanely creative?

But these are just as important as ‘Are we growing?’ ‘Are the margins good?’ ‘Are the customers happy?’

If we build something we are incredibly proud of, that is loved, that is insanely creative, you can be sure that it will also be a great business too.

18, Work with great people. Go home early.

We are going to run a creative company. The good thing is we know how to work with creative people. If we work with great people, they will challenge us. They will push us. They will frighten us. But ultimately it will be a much easier life than working with average, mediocre, or middle of the road.

When we find great people, we will do the following: trust them, give them room that their talent deserves, and let them fly like they have never flown before.

19, Make it fun. Make it easy.

The wrong stress is not good for a business. Or, for the people running it.
But you can minimize the wrong stress by planning for less sales than you hope for and for keeping your costs lower than the business requires. And you can put in systems so that the business is easy to run. Systems that work almost without thinking.

Then we can get on with the serious stuff of making the business as creative and as fun as we possibly can. The ideas that will come out of that culture will make us stand out. They will increase sales. Help us get known. And define us.

In time, that will produce good stress of ‘how on earth are we going to get all these orders out of the door’. And ‘how do we come up with another idea as good as the last one’. That is good stress."



"23, Don’t be average.

Be great at what you do. Life is short."
hiut  via:ethanbodnar  business  slow  patience  tcsnmy  cv  small  luck  growth  manifestos  communitymanagement  inspiration  management  manifesto  administration  leadership  values  howwework  success  fulfillment  williamblake  independence  standingout  talent  time  control 
june 2013 by robertogreco
The Cherry Tree | The White Review
"The Gods said, ‘If you look carefully, you will see that there is one cherry tree that made it through the winter. It is a small one, but it has a few fresh cherries on it. You will have to give it all of your love, and all of your care. It will take a long time, and it will be difficult, but you must give it your every thought and consideration. If you do, this tree will flourish, and then there will be cherries for the whole village.’"



"The Gods must have been watching, happy, for the cherry trees grew, and soon everyone had cherries: cherry pie, cherry salad, cherry soup. And this was wonderful, but not quite good enough, for cherries are not enough for a life, and they are very sweet. So though the townspeople prospered briefly, they did not prosper long. There really was no way back from their failure to properly tend and till their land the season the royal couple came."
sheilaheti  cherries  stories  classideas  luck  success  prosperity  attention  consideration  thoughtfulness  via:nicolefenton 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Filthy Lucre | VICE United States
Until you see it, you never realize how separate the sphere of the rich is from that of everyone else.



Meritocracy is America's foundational myth. If you work hard, society tells us, you'll earn your place in the middle class. But any strawberry picker knows hard work alone is a fast road to nowhere. Similarly, we place our faith in education. Study, and the upper-middle class will be yours. Except the average student graduates $35,000 in debt.

Artists too have their myths. The lies told to artists mirror the lies told to women. Be good enough, be pretty enough, and that guy or gallery will sweep you off your feet, to the picket-fenced land of generous collectors and two and a half kids. But, make the first move, seize your destiny, and you're a whore.

But neither hard work nor talent nor education are passports to success. At best, they're small bits of the puzzle.

A fine artist, (successful, credential-festooned, with inherited money), told me that I was too focused on commerce to be an artist. A real artist endured poverty. Being poor was edifying, filled with moral uplift. I spent weeks in a murderous rage.



Those with money usually think they deserve it. But most people who make the world run—who care for kids, who grow food, who would rebuild after natural disasters and societal collapse—will never be rich, no matter how hard or well they work, because society is constructed with only so much room on top.



If you have money, you can pay to live in a bubble of politesse. Excellent wine choice, sir. Here's your gift bag, madam. Often, you don't have to pay for it. The mere promise that you might will keep you sipping prosecco and deserving of servile attentions. Soon, you think this treatment is earned.



A decade of practice honed my talent. But cash let me express it. To pretend otherwise is to spit in the face of every broke genius who can't afford materials or time. It's to say I got here because I'm better than them.

I am good. But it's never just about that.



It's easy to ignore luck, privilege, and bloody social climbing when you stand onstage in a pair of combat boots. It’s easy to say that if people are just good enough, work hard enough, ask enough, believe enough, they will be like us.

But it’s a lie. Winning does not scale. We may be free beings, but we are constrained by an economic system rigged against us. What ladders we have are being yanked away. Some of us will succeed. The possibility of success is used to call the majority of people failures.

Celebrate beating a treacherous system. But remember, there is no god handing out rewards to the most deserving. Don't pretend that everyone can win."
mollcrabapple  us  money  economics  wages  employment  salaries  luck  success  art  privilege  class  meritocracy  wealth  winning  scale 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Manufacturing Serendipity - Rand's Blog
This manufacturing serendipity business breaks down pretty much like this:

1. Go to places that are not your office (conferences, events, meetups, trains, etc)
2. Participate in things, learn things, and be generally game for new experiences
3. Meet interesting people in the process
4. Build relationships
5. Be generally awesome by helping the people you’ve met and doing good deeds with no expectation of a return
6. Repeat 1-5 hundreds of times

Following this process yields a weird and wonderful return on investment. But, like many investments that actually pay off, that return is poorly understood for three big reasons:

Reason #1: The true value of serendipity usually comes years down the line. …

Reason #2: It’s nearly impossible to measure the impact of serendipity. …

Reason #3: Attribution is almost always misplaced."
learning  crosspollination  relationships  randfishkin  2012  luck  networking  serendipity  from delicious
september 2012 by robertogreco
No Accidents, Comrade – The New Inquiry
"But where fiction generally resists reader alteration, board games take it for granted and depend on it. A fictional narrative remains the same despite how it’s interpreted by readers. The underlying expectation in gameplay, however, is that the player actively constructs a narrative and perhaps even modifies the game’s rules. Meaning for players comes only through the active process of experiencing play. Operating Twilight Struggle’s narrative platform provides a ludic truth — truth through play that gives experiential knowledge using popular, though misleading, historical explanations for the period. It purports to compress the Cold War experience while maintaining some semblance of fidelity to the mentalité of the period, but the chance experienced through gameplay is wed to narrative exposition that clearly embraces a U.S.-centric worldview. Chance narratives help players validate experiential knowledge they acquire during play, but their execution actually inverts the meaning…"
influence  ussr  alternativeplay  bias  toplay  containment  rationalirrationality  distortion  nostalgia  meaning  interpretation  assemblage  narrativeassemblage  narrative  individualism  perception  history  us  opportunity  luck  chance  gameplay  storytelling  fiction  2006  2012  coldwar  boardgames  gaming  games  play  twilightstruggle  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
BuzzFeed’s strategy - Chris Dixon
"Why BuzzFeed Is Succeeding Right Now?

1) Long Term Focus

When you compare web publishing today with what Hearst and Conde Nast built in the last century, it is clear that online publishing has a long long way to go. …

2) Respecting our Readers

We care about the experience of people who read BuzzFeed and we don’t try to trick them for short term gain. This approach is surprisingly rare.

How does this matter in practice? First of all, we don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. …

3) We Build The Whole Enchilada…

4) We Are Doing Something Hard…

5) We Got Lucky!

A big part of our recent success has also been luck.  People don’t like to admit it but skill is 63% luck.

6) We Don’t Treat Half Our Team Like Losers…

7) Our Awesome Team…

But Success Is Fragile…"
readers  entrepreneurship  luck  chrisdixon  strategy  business  media  journalism  buzzfeed  publishing  scrolling  pagination  longterm  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
David Byrne's Journal: 12.13.11: Odyshape
"We instinctively want to believe that a merit-based world exists—that with some hard work, focus, time, effort and perseverance, you too will be rewarded with the body you see on the billboard. The same also applies to our notions of economic well-being. As a result, you have Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich (among many others) implying that poor people are poor simply because they aren’t trying hard enough (note the clever segue from Barbie to politics and economics). The implication is that poor people, or anyone who isn’t successful, just aren’t applying themselves or trying hard enough. Also, that less than fabulously attractive people similarly aren’t going to the gym enough. The corollary is that Bill and Newt are as wealthy as they are because they worked hard. This, excuse me, is bullshit…

Sadly, this dissonance between what is possible image wise, and what is being aimed for by many normal women, is making many of them nutso."
davidbyrne  odyshape  2011  science  politics  sociology  anthropology  darwin  sexualselection  geoffreymiller  photoshop  girls  women  gender  truth  brain  vision  normal  economics  luck  barbie  beingbarbie  henrikehrsson  arvidguterstam  björnvanderhoort  perception  neuroscience  via:lukeneff  bodyimage  femininity  charlesdarwin  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
Alex Payne — On Business Madness
"We mistake dumb luck for a machine that produces success. We rely on induction when we should rely on deduction, and then, having realized our mistake, we lean on “data-driven decisions” in lieu of common sense. We chase patterns that aren’t there and miss eager markets right in front of us. All this while projecting the confidence, real or manufactured, that’s necessary to play the game.

This madness takes many forms…"

"How can we be like the successful ones and not like we are: tired, confused, scared, not-rich? Just tell us the secret. There is a secret, right? There must be. They make it look so easy.

I am not a business person. I don’t know what makes a good business. It seems like it helps to have a good idea, great people, the willingness to work hard, and an absolute shit-ton of luck. Being certain about much beyond that seems, well, a bit crazy to me."
nobodyknowswhatthey'redoing  patterns  patternrecognition  deducation  induction  2012  successworship  entrepreneurship  processcults  taylorism  processcult  process  failure  madness  startup  advice  luck  startups  success  business  alexpayne 
february 2012 by robertogreco
The Blog : How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying) : Sam Harris
"Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made…seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts…freedom from injury & disease…fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—& we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—& did not deserve it. & yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born w/ club feet, or orphaned before the age of 5, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral & economic wisdom in some circles."

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/9573656199/ ]
culture  economics  policy  money  taxes  politics  samharris  objectivism  libertarianism  luck  unlucky  life  illness  bankruptcy  society  religion  belief  selfishness  wisdom  class  wealth  incomegap  wealthdistribution  warrenbuffett  2011  sharing  socialism  democracy  goodfortune  morality  success  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
Economist’s Plan to Improve Schools Begins Before Kindergarten - NYTimes.com
"James J. Heckman, Nobel in economic science…

…marshals ample data to suggest that better teaching, higher standards, smaller classrooms & more Internet access “have less impact than we think…To focus as intently as we do on K-12 years misses how “accident of birth is greatest source of inequality”…

…urges more effectively educating children before they step into classroom where…they often are clueless about letters, numbers & colors — & lack attentiveness & persistence to ever catch up…

…contends that high-quality programs focused on birth to age 5 produce a higher per-$ return than K-12 schooling & later job training…reduce deficits by reducing need for special education & remediation, & by cutting juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy & dropout rates.

…families matter & attributed widening gap btwn advantaged & disadvantaged…

Test scores may measure smarts, not character that turns knowledge into know-how. “Socio-emotional skills”…are critical…"
jamesheckman  education  policy  schools  earlychildhood  poverty  cv  gettingtotheheartofthematter  families  children  parenting  deficit  us  politics  economics  schooling  training  inequality  accidentofbirth  luck  disparity  achievementgap  socialemotionallearning  disadvantages  advantages  delinquency  crime  remediation  learning  money  spending  unschooling  deschooling  socialemotional  from delicious
december 2010 by robertogreco
WNYC - Radiolab » Secrets of Success
"Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t like Gifted and Talented Education Programs. And he doesn’t believe that innate ability can fully explain superstar hockey players or billionaire software giants. In this podcast, we listen in on a conversation between Robert and Malcolm recorded at the 92nd St Y. Robert asks Malcolm if he’s a “genius denier,” and Malcolm asks Robert if he’s uncomfortable with the power of love, as they duke it out over questions of luck, talent, passion, and success."
genius  luck  talent  passion  success  love  malcolmgladwell  science  radiolab  brain  desire  leadership  tcsnmy  toshare  topost  mattheweffect  circumstance  coincidence  billgates  advantage  generations  timing  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
Jack Dorsey: The 3 Keys to Twitter's Success :: Videos :: The 99 Percent
"Jack Dorsey outlines three core takeaways from his experiences building and launching Twitter – and more recently – Square, a simple payment utility. 1) Draw: get your idea out of your head and share it, 2) Luck: assess when the time (and the market) is right to execute your idea, 3) Iterate: take in the feedback, be a rigorous editor, and refine your idea."
creativity  drawing  entrepreneurship  howto  inspiration  process  success  luck  iteration  maps  mapping  twitter  texting  sms  dispatch  information  socialmedia  jackdorsey  tcsnmy  glvo  sharing  criticism  constructivecriticism  rapidprototyping  rapid  prototyping  failure 
may 2010 by robertogreco
LRB · Steven Shapin · The Darwin Show
"Darwin insisted on his intellectual ordinariness. He wanted it publicly understood that his native endowments were no more than average, that he had to overcome a youthful tendency to sloth and self-indulgence, that he had wasted his time at university, that becoming a serious naturalist owed much to good luck, that he had achieved what he had mainly through close observation, discipline, hard work and a genuine passion for science. ... Newton is ascetically ‘wholly other’, bent on destroying intellectual competitors; Galileo is a manipulator of patronage...Einstein is a man who loved humanity in general but treated his wives and his daughter as disposable appendages; Pasteur is a Machiavellian politician of science...Feynman is a philistine, a sexual predator, an over-aged adolescent show-off. This is what has now become of towering genius, of those who discover nature’s secrets. First we make them into icons and then we see how iconoclastic we can be. Darwin alone escapes whipping."
darwin  evolution  science  history  biology  discipline  observation  work  workethic  cv  sloth  laziness  intellect  serendipity  luck  chance  life  biography  galileo  richardfeynman  newton  genius  louispasteur  alberteinstein  philosophy  culture  slavery  amateur  amateurism  money  influene  compromise  personality  charlesdarwin 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Book Review: ‘The Ascent of George Washington’ - WSJ.com
"He had taken what nature had given him"—a robust native intelligence, a strong will & a commanding physical presence—"& through ­observation, self-scrutiny, thoughtfulness, perseverance, & industry reached a point that others saw him as a potential leader." Quite an attainment for a relatively poor, untraveled & totally self-educated younger son of a minor planter, although Mr. Ferling thinks that lucky timing had a lot to do with it. Washington...was "precisely the right age for every epic event of the 2nd half of the 18th century." But so were countless other people born in 1732, only to live & die in obscurity. Consider the crop of egomaniacal liberators & revolutionary ­heroes-turned-caudillos who soon afterward made a mess of Latin America—not to mention Napoleon, whose infatuation with his own destiny led to European tyranny & slaughter on an epic scale—& the conclusion is inescapable. Revolutionary-era America was lucky to have George Washington, not the other way around.
georgewashington  timing  us  history  self-education  homeschool  autodidacts  leadership  latinamerica  serendipity  luck  observation  self-scrutiny  perseverance 
august 2009 by robertogreco
Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Video on TED.com
"Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure -- and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work."
alaindebotton  success  failure  self-esteem  society  inequality  equality  wealth  meritocracy  careers  happiness  anxiety  philosophy  life  work  culture  motivation  sociology  responsibility  suicide  well-being  judgement  ridicule  tragedy  art  coincidences  sympathy  human  religion  nature  balance  wisdom  psychology  ideas  rewards  instrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  envy  individualism  luck  self-worship  humans  work-lifebalance  realism 
july 2009 by robertogreco
The Quick and the Ed - If It's Random, Say It's Random
"friend who’s worked for 2 college admissions departments. One... traditional liberal arts college in the NE, the other a highly competitive college in greater DC. At the former...mostly sane process where they more or less knew high schools of students, had time to read student’s personal statements & truly thought about whether student would be a good fit...in DC, at competitive school...totally different. Mainly because of sheer size of applicant pool...had to rely much more heavily on all-important numbers — GPA & SAT — rather than thinking holistically about student. The admissions office, even after setting a relatively high standard, had 1000s of applicants to choose from & very little time to do so. During admissions season, each officer was given 500 applications per week. At 40 hours/week, not counting breaks and meetings, the admissions officer had 10 minutes to make a decision about an applicant. Ten minutes (unless, as my friend points out, they’re athletes or legacies)."
admissions  colleges  universities  sat  gpa  assessment  luck  unschooling  deschooling  lottery  chance  education  policy  schooling  us 
march 2009 by robertogreco
First Man of Letters
“It is certain that success naturally confirms us in a favorable opinion of our own abilities. Scarce any man is willing to allot to accident, friendship, and a thousand causes which concur in every event without human contrivance or interposition, the part which they may justly claim in his advancement. We rate ourselves by our fortune rather than our virtues, and exorbitant claims are quickly produced by imaginary merit.”
samueljohnson  humans  opinion  selfimage  ability  assessment  ego  success  fortune  virtue  merit  friendship  chance  luck 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Why Malcolm Gladwell Thinks We Have Little Control Over Our Own Success -- New York Magazine
"Malcolm Gladwell’s elegant and wildly popular theories about modern life have turned his name into an adjective—Gladwellian! But in his new book, he seeks to undercut the cult of success, including his own, by explaining how little control we have over it." ...“The basic vision says how we fare in life isn’t just determined by ourselves and our character, it’s determined by a lot of other things that are beyond our control.” ... "“For its poorest students, America doesn’t have a school problem,” Gladwell concludes. “It has a summer-vacation problem.” So how to close the gap between rich and poor students? Get rid of summer vacation in inner-city schools." ...“It’s a book that’s very much about collective and social organized change."
success  luck  malcolmgladwell  politics  culture  economics  books  psychology  sociology  outliers 
november 2008 by robertogreco
The Online Photographer: The Amazing Gift of Woo Lai Wah
"As I started to read it my heart began quaking! By the time I was three quarters down the page I was bawling, wailing, sobbing, even laughing. My feelings were heartshots ricocheting off inner walls, ricocheting off each other, ricocheting off the very boundaries of my own little world. The metaphysical whiplash lasted for days."
photography  serendipity  humankindness  china  chance  luck 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Nassim Nicholas Taleb top life tips
"1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

I think scepticism is one of driving motivations behind many entrepreneurs: a healthy scepticism for existing products and people’s predictions invokes the ‘challenger’ mindset. I have honed my scepticism on the small & aesthetic for long enough now…

2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

HOW can you possibly fault a man who holds amongst his top 10 tips: ‘GO TO PARTIES’

3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

There is ONE exception to this rule. Never tease a Venture Capitalist. Regardless of the size of his tie. Buy him a drink, complement his colour-co-ordinated cufflinks, but never tease him.

4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) once said: ‘If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” And so it is with Snagsta. When the time comes we’ll be wearing our best but at first ‘site’ it may appear as if we got dressed in a bit of a hurry… tucking in our shirt on the way out the door. Kind of my ‘style’ I suppose, given I was once described as looking like an ‘unmade bed’…

5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

I didn’t understand that but I am sure it’s deep.

6. Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

There is an interesting debate on the correlation between success and past failure. In my industry the US is very pro-failure, whereas Europe is far more risk-adverse. Statistics suggest there is no correlation but I have hedged my bets by establishing a long track record of failure…

7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

Bit late for this advice given I am now inextricably linked to Alex M… he’s not really a loser but has exceptionally dodgy taste in music.

8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.

I’ve talked about this before. Ironically this list came from the business section of The Times… a Black Swan perhaps?

9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

The central theme in Taleb’s book (Black Swan): success has a lot to do with luck. Do whatever you can to put yourself in its way. Luck is less likely to visit you in your bedroom while you’re watching dvds…

10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Given his instantaneous reply to my mail I know exactly how junior Taleb thinks I am. To those of you that I haven’t written back to recently… it’s because you’re so important."

[from the video seen here: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article4022091.ece?print=yes&randnum=1214904808363 another version here: http://blog.snagsta.com/2008/06/13/time-to-party/ ]
nassimtaleb  blackswans  life  skepticism  news  reading  information  risk  investment  luck  failure  success  money  systems  environment  complexity  communication  email 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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