octubre 19, 2004

Are people born lucky? Are some people luckier than others?

From Robert Rubin's memoir In an Uncertain World:
Anyone who is honest about having done well will acknowledge the enormous role played by chance.

I agree. I think some people are born lucky. Some people are luckier than others.

I don't actually believe that people are inherently luckier than others, but by virtue of a small sample size some people end up luckier than others.

How many decisions in life really matter? Sure every decision you make steers you towards some decisions and away from others, but only a few are really life changing.

For example, take standardized tests like the LSAT, which selective law schools prefer that you only take once. Once you get to a certain level, three or four questions can make the difference between acceptance to Harvard Law and getting rejected from Penn Law. Anyone who has taken a few LSATs will tell you that your score can easily fluctuate five questions on any given day.

Or to take a more egregious example, some people get rich due to winning the lottery. Over the long run, playing the lottery is a ridiculously negative expected value at almost any level -- especially once taxes are figured in (of course, even in the lottery there are often ways to give yourself a small edge). But some people get lucky.

This isn't to say that I think successful people got there due to luck. I think most successful (measured in financial terms) people are successful because of hard work. Even most rich kids don't have as much of an edge as one might intuit, as the rich kids' parents I know aren't willing to give them money. They'll pay for nice schooling, but after that they're on their own.

There are alot of factors in financial success of course. For example, career choice. Anyone who is smart enough and willing to work hard enough can go to law school and make a few million being an ambulance chaser.

This was very disjointed. Maybe someday I'll take these thoughts and organize them into an essay.