Earning Success

I had an interesting chat with my wife last night while we were waiting for dinner to cook. She told me that she thought I was going to make it as a writer because I am always persevering. Which is a nice enough thing to say, but it got me thinking.

Turns out that earlier in the day she had been listening to a program on the radio where the guest said that perseverance was more important to success than talent, and that if you persevered then you would succeed at whatever you were working on.

I fully agree with the first statement; hard work is more important than talent. I’m just not so sure about the second statement.

It seems to me a lot like the logic that wealthy people use to justify their own positions and the inequality in society. That they are wealthy because they have worked harder, they deserve it and people who are poor deserve what they have.

Which doesn’t really make sense. Are we really expected to believe that a CEO works harder than a deep-sea fisherman?

It’s an easy thing to believe because we hear it all the time. The trouble is, the people who tend to be invited on radio shows are people who have persevered AND succeeded. There isn’t a lot of attention given to artists who have spent their whole lives working hard to achieve something and then just not. It’s survivorship bias.

I am prepared to accept that the people who succeed tend to have perseverance, but I don’t accept that all people who have perseverance succeed. Believing that takes away from the massively important element of luck.

Which isn’t to say that people should stop trying. I certainly have no intention of packing up my pens and quitting. Maybe I will never have that lucky break. I accept that. But I know that if I stop trying then, if that lucky break ever does come along, I won’t be in a position to take advantage of it.

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