As I’ve said countless times before, talent and hard work alone are insufficient indicators of success. I’ve watched people — gifted, dynamic, vibrant people — forge on with slavish dedication to their art and earn precious little recognition for their labours, with not a scintilla of success to show for it. So what’s missing?
We’re told to work hard and smart and in time we’d reap the rewards for our efforts. Some do, that’s obvious, but not everyone, that’s for sure.
Those who know me best know that I have passion for science, and that’s where I look for guidance when the world begins to sag a bit in the middle, or become worn at the edges. Take care, though, to avoid confirmation bias — seeking things that confirm your beliefs is to risk becoming a stranger to more substantial evidence.
Imagine the complete lack of surprise when I read the findings of three scientists who chose to measure the role of luck in success:
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.
It’s occurred to me, through studious observation of the world, that there are three main driving forces to success, or — in their absence — failure, and I’ve often found it best to characterise these three fundamental forces as an astronomical guide.
Saturn is sheer blind luck and nothing else. Nature doesn’t care about whimsical things such as what we consider to be fair, or whether you’re burdened with a staggering and immeasurable talent — if you are, excellent, because you won the genetic lotto, but this is a different game and a new role of the dice.
The thing about luck is, what’s good luck for someone is sometimes bad luck for someone else.
Acting upon good luck (fortune) is sometimes like an art, where:
- you have to be both aware of the moment (and sometimes good fortune comes dressed in the ragged garb of the bad);
- and be both cognizant and cunning enough to see opportunities in the scenarios created by bad luck and have the guile to turn them into something good for yourself, or perhaps others, too.
Where possible, I avoid trading on the misfortunes of others.
Jupiter is who you know and the extent of their connections. Steve Jobs was an immigrant who was put up for adoption as an infant, which is not the best start in life! However, growing up in California to affluent white caucasian parents with notable mentors such as Andrew Grove, a founding father of Intel, didn’t do the juvenile Jobs much harm.
It’s impossible to replicate the sheer good fortune (Saturn) that Jobs enjoyed, but it is possible to position yourself among influential people and the reap the rewards of that personal and social investment over time.
As a business owner, we take leaps into the unknown — educated risks, but risks nonetheless. I’d been working from a home office for a while and decided to make the next great leap by taking an office at the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley, a decision that has proved to be a success on multiple fronts: formidable talent; genuine personalities; and access to opportunities that would otherwise be beyond reach.
When I think about the work I’ve had over the almost two decades Octane Interactive Limited has been trading, word-of-mouth marketing has been by far the greatest source of clients.
However, like Jobs, position and connections are one thing, but there is another component which is essential if you wish to make the most of these giants of success…
Out there in the vast ink black reaches of space, nestled amongst the debris of the surplus parts to a once proto Solar System, mingling in and almost obscured by the Kuiper belt, a vast ring of shattered rock and ice beyond the orbit of Neptune, is the diminutive “planetoid” Pluto, the embodiment of what you know and what you’re good at — a mere speck compared to Saturn and Jupiter.
Often such things as talent, intelligence, hard work, diligence, and so forth are worthless in isolation — Vincent van Gogh is but one example of a constellation of artists that failed to shine during the fleeting period of their own lifetime. However, if you choose to bring your personal Pluto into orbit of those giant engines of success, Saturn and Jupiter, then you increase the chances of good things happening.
When I moved into the Digital Media Centre, I had access to a network of influential, talented, and knowledgeable people — something that’s difficult to replicate. As an example, when I go for a coffee from the resident barista, there’s a chance of bumping into someone new and interesting and starting a conversation … you get the idea.
Is there a connection between word-of-mouth marketing and Steve Jobs? Unless you are and continue to be good — if not excellent — at what you do, who you know and the fortune you court are without value, because neither are sustainable drivers of success over the long-term without the talent to build upon.
In fairness to his biological parents, it wasn’t chance that the infant Jobs found himself on the shores of the United States of America, the land of opportunities, though at the time no-one could have predicted he would become the creative titan we knew him to have been.
Watch for the waxing and the waning of Saturn (the ebb and flow of chance) and Jupiter (the dynamic motion of people in the social and professional networks you move amongst).
Cultivate an open mind, be aware of chance, be ruthless, nurture self confidence, harness cunning, have a big heart, but ahead of everything else, love what you do with a passion.