The Randomness of Success

Take the time to watch this talk if you can (Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success).  I really enjoyed listening to his thoughts on meritocracy and the randomness of success.  The difference between someone at the top and someone who did not quite make it is not necessarily talent or hard work. Sometimes it just comes down to one person getting a break or having an opportunity that the other didn’t. I think I first started to understand this when I started university. I know I worked hard to get good grades in secondary school but I never considered what path other people had to take to get to the same point as me. I took it for granted that everyone had teachers like mine (that would hold revision sessions at the weekend if necessary to help us prep for exams), good guidance counsellors and the chance to talk to former schoolmates who could give the inside scoop on what uni was like. I was shocked to realise that some others did not have people to point them in the right direction and often didn’t even know what information they were missing until it was too late. As a result, they were now in a position of trying to rectify decisions made on the basis of erroneous information.

All of this is just to say that I think re-considering what success means to us as individuals and as a society is a good idea. We might end up judging ourselves and others less harshly.

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