We tend to forget the luck that is the wind at our backs

Chilean sociologists Mario Molina and Mauricio Bucca noticed that when their friends played a card game that was totally based on chance, they insisted that their winning streak was based on superior skills. This inspired Molina and Bucca to do experiments that helped them discover that same fascinating pattern repeating over and over – if a person has success , they are almost entirely unable to separate their role from the role played by sheer luck.

“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men,” E.B. White wrote many years ago.

In this entrepreneurial economy, there are more and more self-made men and women, and they are becoming increasingly convinced of their own success, even when they’ve had a lot of luck and help along the way, according to the economist Robert H. Frank and other researchers.

Of course hard work is necessary for success. If we’re biking into the wind, we’ll feel the difference right away. We have to pedal harder, we’re sweating, and we’re getting tired.

But if we have tailwind, it feels different. After a while we don’t even notice its assistance anymore. We can easily picture people heading into a strong wind, but it’s far more difficult to capture an image of the wind at our backs. It’s almost as if it were invisible.

In short, we tend to forget the luck that is the wind at our backs, but we never forget the headwind and the hard work. And that becomes our public narrative. 

From “Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds” by Mark Schaefer