Written by Anthony Demangone
We all want to be successful. Hard work and skills are essential, of course. But I'm starting to realize that a nice helping of luck never hurts.
I just finished reading Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. It is a fascinating read, perhaps a must-read for those seeking success in business. I've been annoying my colleagues with a steady dose of anecdotes from the book.
(Photo by Matt Yohe. Via Wikipedia.)
The book paints a vivid picture of Jobs. He was brilliant. He had a way of seeing how developments in technology would open up massive opportunities in consumer products. He did it in different fields. Computers. Cell phones. Music. Tablets. Movies.
Jobs also understood marketing, product development, and how the feel and look of a product could drive sales.
But he was also very difficult. At times, he was the personification of the word "jerk." In fact, this article (Openforum.com) holds Jobs up as an example of what not to do as a manager. He called colleagues idiots. He was rude in business meetings. He held grudges.
So how does a glorified jerk become such a successful CEO? I'd argue that Jobs was one of the luckiest men on earth.
He happened to be friends with Steve Wozniak. The two of them together created the first Apple computer. As I understand it, Jobs had a vision of what he wanted that machine to do. But Wozniak was the engineer who could make it happen. I'd argue that either of them alone would never have succeeded in bringing the Apple computer to market. But together, they built a computer that resonated with consumers.
That success led to fame, money and power. That combination kept doors open for Jobs, long after others would have slammed them in his face. Don't get me wrong - Jobs was brilliant. But take away Wozniak's involvement in the beginning, and perhaps Jobs career turns out to be a very different.
Luck and success. How often are the two coupled? A recent New York Times article touches on the subject, highlighting some research in that specific area. Here's a snippet from that article:
We always knew that it was good to be smart and hard-working, and that if you were born or raised with those qualities, you were incredibly lucky, just as you were lucky if you grew up in the United States rather than in Somalia. But the sociologists’ research helps us understand why many people who have those qualities never find much success in the marketplace. Chance elements in the information flows that promote that success are sometimes the most important random factors of all.
Of course, we should keep celebrating the talented, hard-working people who have succeeded in their businesses or careers. But the research provides an important moral lesson: that these people might also do well to remain more humbly mindful of their own good fortune.
That last paragraph raises such an important point. How we end up...here, is often a very long story filled with turns and detours. I'm sure many of us have a lucky break or two in our past. Personally, I know that I've worked hard. But I've been very fortunate. Any success I've had, at times, almost appears random. So I wonder...
- How many successful people are given too much credit for their success?
- How many "geniuses" are out there, just waiting for the cards to fall their way?
There may be no answers to those questions. But I think they are worthy things to consider.
Have a great week, everyone.