2 Rules When Evaluating Success
When we assess our achievements, we hardly ever acknowledge the role that time and circumstance have played or whether luck was involved.
In the late-1960s, a 17-year-old student at Lakewood High School, north of Seattle, would routinely walk the halls with a briefcase full of gadgets and magazines.
A teacher at his school had procured a $3,000 teletype computer, and the nerdy teen and two pals quickly became obsessed — spending countless hours each day in the lab while their classmates engaged in more common activities for kids their age.
One was Bill Gates, who would go on to found Microsoft. The other was Paul Allen, his co-founder.
The teen with the briefcase was named Kent Evans, and he seemed to be destined for similar career success.
Except Evans died in a mountaineering accident right before graduation — a tragic mishap that Gates still routinely reflects on.
Author Morgan Housel shared these details in his best-selling book The Psychology of Money — and it has some key lessons for us.
Most of us like to chalk our success up to countless hours we’ve spent working on our craft, some skills we’ve honed over time, a relentless passion for our trade that others just don’t have.
And there may be some validity to this.
But when we look at our achievements, we hardly ever acknowledge the role that time and circumstance have played or the unexpected breaks we’ve caught along the way.
"Luck and risk are both the reality that every outcome in life is guided by forces other than individual effort," Housel writes. "They are so similar that you can't believe in one without equally respecting the other other. They both happen because the world is too complex to allow 100 percent of your actions to dictate 100 percent of your outcomes."
Housel believes risk and luck are essentially doppelgangers and that the line between them is so thin, we can easily be duped into reaching wrong conclusions.
So he encourages us two consider two rules:
1. Be careful who you praise and admire
2. Be careful who you look down upon and wish to avoid becoming
For us as leaders, the key lesson for us might be that those at the top haven't necessarily discovered the pathway to achievement that we absolutely have to follow.
It might just mean they've caught some pretty fortunate breaks along the way — and that ours are still to come.