Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wealth Is Just Luck? Two Views

Wealth is just luck? Jim Gust questioned, reacting to a research study. Like most topics these days, the question has become politicized. Liberal Democrats think wealth is just a lottery ticket away; old-line Republicans say you have to work and sweat for it.  Jim leans toward the latter view.

Michael Lewis does not. In his frequently cited 2012 address to graduating Princetonians, the author insisted his wealth and success was luck all the way. At a dinner party he happened to run into people from Salomon Brothers. Salomon Brothers happened to put him to work flogging mortgage-backed securities. And he happened to realize he could write a best seller about grown men manufacturing derivatives.

All luck? Maybe, but his M.A. in economics and his extraordinary talent for turning financial intricacies into ripping good yarns didn't hurt.

Here's a more realistic view of the role of luck, heard on NPR the other day. Read or better yet listen to Sir James Dyson, inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner.

When the interviewer asked if he believed in luck, Sir James mentioned hard work and perseverance before mentioning luck. Then he backtracked:
I do believe, though, that you create your own luck. Because luck is around. You know.  
I did long-distance running at school. And you only succeed by doing a huge amount of training and then having great stamina, understanding that other people are also feeling tired. So when you feel tired, you should accelerate. That's when you start winning.
I've learnt that with developing new technology, that when you feel like giving up is precisely the point everybody else gives up. So it's at that point that you must put in extra effort. And you do that, and then success is literally just around the corner. 
Whose view of luck do you favor? Michael Lewis? Sir James Dyson?

Before deciding, you should know that Sir James almost certainly has the larger yacht.

Yacht Nahlin, built in in 1930 and restored by Sir James

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