Michael J. Berland
Consultant, author

Michael J. Berland

A strategic adviser and communications consultant who co-authored "What Makes You Tick? How Successful People Do It -- And What You Can Learn from Them."


Luck and timing

Q: How much does achieving success rely on luck vs. skill? Recently, 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?

Most of the super-successful people interviewed for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It -- And What You Can Learn from Them used the word lucky when describing the arc of their success. Most people understand that chance favors the prepared and they equate luck with timing more than anything else.

While they may have been fortunate in different ways, the fact that so many of rock stars in business, sports, entertainment, fashion etc. use the word "lucky" is a sign that they're thankful for their success -- that they understand the value of humility. In their own words, here what four of the 50 people we interviewed had to say on the subject.

Jake Burton, owner and chairman, Burton Snowboards:
"Some of it is out of your hands; it's just luck, timing. Of course, to a certain extent timing is luck. If I'd tried to do what I did ten years earlier, it probably wouldn't have happened. I think snowboarding eventually would have come around one way or another, but I think the timing was just perfect. ... Not everyone is lucky enough to stumble on something that will take him to the level I've reached. But you can't go wrong if you're doing what you love."

The late Don Hewitt, who created CBS News' "60 Minutes":
"Even though '60 Minutes' is the most watched, most honored, and most profitable broadcast of its kind in television history, I have to admit that my success in television was the product of a large dose of luck and a small dose of wisdom -- just enough to capitalize on the luck."

Brian France, chairman and CEO, NASCAR:
"I think the desire to be excellent, in whatever industry you choose, is crucial to success. ... I've had a few moments of luck along the way. I'm not saying you have to have good luck to succeed, that if you don't, you're dead. You still have to have all the other things. But a little luck helps."

Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal:
"I believe in luck, of course. I think there's a degree of luck in all of this. But you've got to prepare for luck. You can't just count on it. Great preparation puts you in the position to enjoy that luck and succeed even more."

By Michael J. Berland  |  November 20, 2009; 12:01 PM ET  | Category:  Skill versus Luck Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Forget failure | Next: Surviving war

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company