Celeste Owens

Celeste Owens

A motivational speaker and licensed psychologist with a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.


Born with it

Q: How much does achieving success rely on luck vs. skill? This week a Western Maryland lumberjack named Darvin Moon won $5 million in the World Series of Poker. He insists he is no more skilled at cards than any recreational player. What do you think?

We are all born with natural skills and abilities that enable us to easily perform certain tasks without formal training. While formal training helps to develop the skill, the aptitude to perform in this area is recognizable prior to education. For example, Annie Duke poker champion also is champion of a favorite childhood game, rock-paper-scissors.

I am trained as a counseling psychologist. In graduate school, some students excelled because they had certain natural abilities that lend themselves to the practice of therapy. These abilities included good listening skills, the capacity to empathize or understand another's experiences, and the ability to accurately read body language. Students who had to learn these skills struggled throughout the program and I suspect (maybe even hope) they do not practice therapy today.

Growing up I was always the go-to friend for advice and a shoulder to cry on; however, in my first year of college I majored in pre-med. This choice was prompted by my desire to fulfill the wish of my deceased great-grandmother. Before her passing she had talked of having a doctor in the family. Determined was I to make that dream a reality -- until biology and chemistry. After two poor grades, I decided to pursue the major that aligned best with my natural abilities: psychology. Duh!

(And while we are here, let me throw this in for free . . . pursue those dreams that fit with your passion and natural ability. Living someone else's dream may lead to frustration, apathy, and burnout. You only have one life to live!).

Again, success is probable if you pursue endeavors that coincide with your natural skills and abilities. Therefore, before you run out to play in your next local poker competition, assess your ability to play like the pros (e.g., reading hands, understanding your opponent, the ability to think under pressure, etc.) or be prepared to lose a lot of money.

By Celeste Owens  |  November 12, 2009; 8:05 AM ET  | Category:  Skill versus Luck Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sweet serendipity | Next: Bias against luck


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Actually you did fulfill your great grandmothers wishes - you are still a doctor, albeit Psychology and not medical. This article reminded me of a quote from Dr. Cornel West. His father always encouraged he and his brother to search for their 'vocation' and not just their 'profession'. In a perfect world they are the same. But if you have natural ability and seek to live your life doing what you were put on earth to do, then I'd imagine luck wouldn't enter into the equation at all.

Posted by: joyforrest | November 23, 2009 1:23 PM
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So true Dr. Owens. I have been "teaching" since I was a little girl lining up my dolls and stuffed animals. My favorite pastimes as a child were to play school and read so even though I have a Journalism degree (my love for the printed word) it came very natural that I loved my job as a facilitator. Yet again another confirmation.

Posted by: tlkingsland | November 14, 2009 8:58 AM
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