In his recent commencement speech at Howard University, President Obama said the following in reference to successful people: “Yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: people who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.”
I agree with part of what he said. Luck does play a role in everyone’s life, and to a certain extent, their opportunity to achieve success. For example, some people were born to young, healthy, educated, and affluent parents, while others – like myself – were born to older, sicklier, uneducated, and poor parents. And there are other serendipitous factors, too, that work to either enhance or inhibit one’s chances to achieve success. Examples of these include athletic ability (or the lack thereof), intelligence (or the lack thereof), good health (or the lack thereof), and people skills (or the lack thereof). Some people are born with these advantages. There was nothing they did to earn them. Others were born without them, through no fault of their own.
And I disagree with former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ assertion that success is based almost completely on hard work, so that those who work the hardest are the most successful, while those who don’t work that hard are least successful. I also disagree with Daniels’ statement that luck is never a factor unless it is “tragically back luck.” I’ve meet a lot of hard-working people were not successful, mainly due to circumstances beyond their control. However, with that being said, I must say that I believe President Obama went way overboard in his emphasis on luck and erred greatly in his flippant dismissal of individual effort as a key to success. Luck alone cannot make anyone successful.
An individual must work hard to cultivate their natural talents and take advantage of any breaks that they may get along the way. To tell a successful person that it was “nothing you did” is completely ridiculous. They have every right to take credit for their success. Successes and failures are not randomly chosen, as the president seems to imply. That’s not the way the world works. We are all blessed by God in various ways, but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to be successful. Every successful person achieves that status because of their own tenacity and perseverance. Those without all the luck just have to do a lot more on their own and overcome greater obstacles to get there.