Is Luck a Skill? Unpacking the Myth in Life

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Originally posted on January 1, 2024 @ 6:07 am

The concept of luck has always fascinated and divided people. Some believe that luck is a skill that can be developed and enhanced through effort and strategy, while others see it as a purely random and uncontrollable force. The debate between luck and skill has been a topic of discussion for centuries, with arguments made on both sides.

Some argue that luck is a learned skill, suggesting that individuals can cultivate luck through various means. They believe that by developing certain traits, such as a positive mindset, adaptability, and persistence, one can attract more favorable circumstances and opportunities. They view luck as a talent that can be honed and refined.

On the other hand, skeptics argue that luck is purely a matter of chance and that no amount of skill or effort can influence its outcome. They believe that luck is unpredictable and uncontrollable, and therefore cannot be developed as a skill. They see luck as something that happens randomly and cannot be influenced or manipulated.

However, it is important to note that luck and skill are not mutually exclusive. In certain situations, luck can play a significant role in one’s success or failure. For example, being in the right place at the right time or meeting the right people can be attributed to luck. At the same time, having the necessary skills and abilities to capitalize on those opportunities is equally important.

Ultimately, the debate between luck and skill is complex and multifaceted. While luck may play a role in certain circumstances, skill and effort are crucial factors in achieving success. It is important to recognize that luck and skill are intertwined, and that both are necessary for personal and professional growth.

Key Takeaways:

  • Luck and skill are not mutually exclusive and often work hand in hand.
  • Some believe that luck can be developed and enhanced through effort and strategy.
  • Skeptics argue that luck is purely a matter of chance and cannot be controlled or influenced.
  • Being in the right place at the right time can be attributed to luck, but having the skills to capitalize on opportunities is equally important.
  • Ultimately, both luck and skill play a role in achieving success, and it is important to recognize and cultivate both.

The Myth of Being “Self-Made”


The American Dream holds the allure of self-made success, where individuals can supposedly achieve great heights through sheer determination and hard work. This concept of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps has resonated deeply within society, perpetuating a myth that ignores the influence of outside factors on an individual’s path to success.

Many celebrities and business leaders have become figureheads of this notion, attributing their achievements solely to personal qualities such as raw talent and tireless work. While these qualities certainly play a role, they often overshadow the advantages of privilege and luck that shape an individual’s journey.

Behind every self-made success story lies a network of familial connections, financial safety nets, and gatekeepers who open doors of opportunity. These outside factors provide individuals with the resources and support to overcome hurdles and seize advantageous moments along their path.

“Success is never achieved in isolation. It is the product of a combination of talent, hard work, and a series of fortunate opportunities.”

By dismissing the influence of outside factors, the myth of self-made success perpetuates a narrative that reinforces aspirational yet problematic notions about achievement. It fails to acknowledge the role of privilege in providing a head start and the element of luck in determining the trajectory of one’s journey.

While personal qualities and tireless work are undoubtedly important, they are not the sole determinants of success. Recognizing and understanding the impact of outside factors on an individual’s journey is essential for a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of success in our society.

The Fallacy of the American Dream

The American Dream, often associated with the myth of being self-made, paints a picture of limitless opportunities and the possibility of upward mobility for anyone willing to put in the effort. However, outside factors such as privilege, familial connections, and financial safety nets heavily influence an individual’s ability to pursue these opportunities.

This narrow perspective disregards the experiences of those who face systemic barriers due to their socio-economic status, race, gender, or other factors beyond their control. It fails to acknowledge the barriers that limit access to education, employment, and resources, making it impossible for everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

The notion of self-made success often overlooks the role that luck plays in an individual’s journey. Luck can present unexpected opportunities, connections, or timing that greatly impact one’s path to success. Being at the right place at the right time can make all the difference, regardless of the amount of hard work and talent an individual possesses.

The Illusion of Meritocracy

The myth of self-made success is deeply enmeshed within the illusion of meritocracy, where society rewards individuals based solely on their abilities and efforts. This belief in a meritocratic system fails to account for the structural and systemic factors that shape an individual’s opportunities.

Meritocracy overlooks the privilege and advantages that some individuals are born into, such as access to quality education, familial connections, and financial safety nets. These factors create a significant head start, giving certain individuals a higher chance of success before they even begin.

Additionally, meritocracy ignores the significant barriers faced by marginalized communities, such as discrimination, limited opportunities, and biased gatekeepers who hold the keys to success. These barriers often hinder talented individuals from accessing the same opportunities as their privileged counterparts, perpetuating societal inequities.

Factors Contributing to Success Significance
Privilege Provides advantages and resources that set individuals up for success.
Familial Connections Opens doors to opportunities and mentors who can guide and support individuals on their journey.
Financial Safety Nets Provide a cushion for individuals to take risks and recover from failures without facing dire consequences.
Gatekeepers Hold the keys to opportunities, such as hiring decisions or access to influential networks.
Luck Unpredictable external factors that can significantly impact an individual’s journey.
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Recognizing the contribution of these factors does not diminish the individual qualities and efforts that drive success. Rather, it brings to light the need for a more nuanced understanding of achievement and the importance of creating equitable paths for success.

By breaking free from the constraints of the self-made myth, we can work together to challenge the systems that perpetuate inequality and create opportunities that are not contingent on privilege, luck, or familial connections. It is through dismantling these barriers and promoting equal access to resources and opportunities that we can move closer to true success for all.

Privilege and Societal Factors Impacting Success

Societal Factors Impacting Success

While personal determination and talent contribute to success, they are not the sole factors at play. Privilege and societal factors have a profound impact on an individual’s opportunities and outcomes. These factors include:

  • Family wealth
  • Social and professional networks
  • Access to education and training
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • Economic class
  • Physical able-bodiedness
  • Mental able-bodiedness

The compounding benefits of privilege can result in significant career advancement and higher lifetime earnings for certain groups. Even small differences in opportunity or access can lead to rapid disparities. Societal expectations and biases also influence success, affecting hiring practices, wages, and promotion rates.

Each individual’s unique set of privileges and disadvantages shape their path to success.

Examining the Influence of Privilege and Society

Family wealth is a significant determinant of success. Inherited wealth provides a safety net and resources, allowing individuals to pursue opportunities and take risks.

Social and professional networks play a crucial role in career advancement. Connections and introductions can open doors and provide critical support and mentorship.

Access to quality education and training is vital for acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge for success. However, disadvantaged communities often face limited access to quality education, limiting their opportunities for advancement.

Race and gender continue to impact opportunities and outcomes. Systemic biases affect hiring decisions and wage discrepancies, leading to unequal representation and compensation.

Geographic location can also influence success, as some regions offer more robust job markets, resources, and opportunities than others.

Economic class shapes an individual’s access to resources, opportunities, and support systems. Those in lower economic classes often face barriers to upward mobility and face greater instability.

Physical and mental able-bodiedness can affect one’s ability to pursue certain careers or access resources and accommodations necessary for success.

All these societal factors interact and compound, creating advantages or disadvantages that significantly impact an individual’s success in their professional and personal lives.

Opportunities and Disparities

The influence of societal factors and privilege extends beyond initial job opportunities. Career advancement and lifetime earnings are also affected.

Hiring practices often favor candidates with certain societal advantages, perpetuating disparities. Wage gaps continue to persist, particularly affecting marginalized groups.

“Society still has this strange way of somehow judging women more harshly as they rise.” – Reshma Saujani

Creating Equitable Paths

To create a more equitable society, it is crucial to recognize and address the impact of privilege and societal factors. This requires:

  1. Ensuring equal access to quality education and training
  2. Promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors
  3. Implementing fair hiring practices and addressing wage disparities
  4. Providing support systems and resources for underprivileged individuals
  5. Challenging biases and stereotypes that perpetuate inequality

By valuing diversity, dismantling barriers, and offering support, we can create a more inclusive society that provides equal opportunities for success.

Factors Influence on Success
Family wealth Affects access to resources, opportunities, and financial stability
Social and professional networks Provide critical support, mentorship, and job opportunities
Access to education and training Acquiring skills and knowledge necessary for success
Race Systemic biases impact hiring decisions and wage discrepancies
Gender Affects representation, promotions, and compensation
Geographic location Availability of job markets, resources, and opportunities
Economic class Access to resources, stability, and upward mobility
Physical able-bodiedness Affects career choices and access to accommodations
Mental able-bodiedness Influences mental well-being and career choices

Examining Success in Your 30s

societal timelines

In our 30s, societal expectations for achievement reach new heights. We’re expected to establish a successful career, achieve financial independence, own a home, start a family, maintain peak physical fitness, and find personal fulfillment and community impact. However, success during this stage of life is heavily influenced by privilege and timing.

Individuals who have enjoyed financial security from birth often have more leeway to explore various career paths, take risks, and even endure failures. Access to quality education, reliable childcare, convenient transportation, good health, attractiveness, and extroversion also play a significant role in determining success.

It may seem that achievements in our 30s are solely a result of individual determination and effort. However, the truth is that external variables strongly dictate our outcomes. Two individuals with equal determination but unequal privilege are unlikely to achieve identical goals.

To emphasize this point, let’s consider a quote from author and social activist bell hooks:

“The most subversive thing you can do is talk about what you don’t know. The most radical thing we can do is choose that which has not been chosen.”

hooks’ words remind us that success is not solely a result of personal attributes or choices but is deeply intertwined with societal dynamics and opportunities. Reaching milestones and achieving personal fulfillment is not a linear journey; it is influenced by the privileges or disadvantages one possesses.

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As we analyze success in our 30s, let’s remember that societal expectations and privileges significantly shape our paths. By recognizing these factors, we can challenge the notion of a one-size-fits-all definition of success and work towards creating more equitable opportunities for all individuals.

The “Starving Artist” Myth


In the art world, class dynamics play a significant role in shaping its functioning and character. The dominant values ascribed to art often serve the interests of power players such as large corporations, auction houses, corporate collectors, and private collectors. These entities, along with patrons, trustees, and administrators, hold the financial position and influence to shape the art world according to their preferences.

This system creates a challenging environment for many artists, perpetuating what is commonly known as the “starving artist” myth. In traditional gallery contexts, for example, artists often find themselves in a financially precarious position. They have to pay for gallery space and give a significant commission on every sale, leaving them running at a loss despite their dedication, time, and money invested in their work.

This exploitative structure disproportionately benefits those with resources, contacts, and trust funds, while excluding those who cannot sustain an art career without significant financial support. As a result, many talented artists struggle to make a living from their craft, perpetuating the myth that artists must suffer for their art.

“The ‘starving artist’ myth allows the exploitation and capitalization off artists, preventing many talented creators from reaching their full potential.” – John Smith, Art Critic

Breaking free from this myth requires not only recognizing the structural inequalities in the art world but also challenging the dominant values that prioritize financial gain over the well-being of artists. By creating alternative platforms and supporting grassroots initiatives, we can promote a fairer and more sustainable art ecosystem that values the contributions of artists.

Comparison of Artists’ Financial Positions in Different Gallery Contexts

Gallery Context Financial Position of Artists
Traditional Gallery Running at a loss due to gallery fees and significant commissions on sales
Alternative Gallery More control over pricing and greater profit margins
Online Platform Lower overhead costs and potential for wider reach, but increased competition

Recognizing and challenging the “starving artist” myth is essential for creating a more equitable and supportive art world. By valuing artists’ contributions and advocating for fair compensation, we can foster an environment that allows artists to thrive without sacrificing their financial stability.

The “Do What You Love” Myth

creative entrepreneurship

Turning a passion, such as art, into an income-generating endeavor is not without challenges. The “do what you love” movement can be problematic, as it overlooks the realities of making a living from one’s passions. While it is admirable to pursue a creative entrepreneurship and make a career out of your passion, it is important to recognize the barrier to entry and the resources required for success.

Many individuals are drawn to creative fields because of their deep personal fulfillment and passion for their craft. However, not everyone can easily monetize their passions and turn them into a sustainable career. Socioeconomic exclusion exists in both the art world and the entrepreneurial world, where financial resources and opportunities may be limited for certain individuals.

It is crucial to understand that not everyone who pursues their passion will achieve immediate success or financial stability. Failure in the pursuit of your passion does not equate to personal failure. The path to success often requires significant investment, both in terms of time and finances.

“Success in doing what you love requires investment, time, and often financial support.”

To pursue a career in the creative arts, individuals often have to use personal savings, hold side jobs, take out loans, or seek financial support from others. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to these resources, which can create significant barriers to entry.

While it is important to have ambition and a strategy for success, it is equally important to hustle and navigate the challenges creatively. In the face of these barriers, it is crucial to maintain your creative integrity and not compromise on the art that brought you joy in the first place.

The Importance of Making Informed Career Decisions

When considering a career in a creative field, it is essential to make informed decisions. Understand the realities of the industry, the level of competition, and the potential challenges you may face. Research and gather the necessary resources to build a strong foundation for your creative entrepreneurship.

“Making informed career decisions is crucial for aspiring creative entrepreneurs.”

By understanding the market demands, identifying target audiences, and developing effective marketing strategies, you can increase the likelihood of success in your chosen field. Embrace your passion and ambition, but also approach it with a well-thought-out plan to navigate the obstacles that may arise.

Challenging the Myths and Working Towards Equity

To disrupt the status quo and dismantle unjust systems, it is crucial to challenge the myths surrounding self-made success, the starving artist, and the do what you love movement. By disrupting these narratives, we can create a more equitable and inclusive society for artists and creative professionals.

Improving infrastructure and creating opportunities are vital steps towards a fairer arts ecosystem. This means investing in accessible art spaces, studios, and venues, as well as providing resources and support for artists to showcase their work. By improving the infrastructure, we create more avenues for artists to showcase their talents and reach wider audiences.

It is also essential to protect the rights and well-being of artists. This includes fair compensation for their work and advocating for arts policies that promote a living wage. By valuing artists and compensating them appropriately, we recognize their contributions to society and help provide them with financial stability.

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Recognizing and dismantling unjust systems is key to creating equitable paths for artists. This involves challenging the dominant values and power structures within the art world, such as large corporations, auction houses, and collectors. By diversifying the arts landscape and supporting alternative perspectives, we can create a more inclusive and representative artistic community.

“Art is not a luxury, but a necessity. It has the power to challenge, evoke emotions, and spark conversations that can lead to social change. By dismantling unjust systems and creating equitable paths, we can ensure that all artists have the opportunities and recognition they deserve.”

It is crucial to recognize the role of privilege in the arts and work towards addressing it. This means acknowledging the privileges and advantages certain artists have, such as access to education, resources, and networks. By recognizing our own privilege and using it to advocate for underrepresented artists, we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive arts community.

Supporting creative professionals goes beyond just recognizing their work. It means creating an environment where they can thrive and pursue their artistic endeavors. This includes advocating for policies that provide stable funding, affordable housing, and healthcare for artists. By supporting the well-being of artists, we create a society that values creativity and promotes holistic success.

Key Measures for Challenging Myths and Supporting Artists:

  • Advocate for arts policies that promote a living wage for artists
  • Invest in accessible art spaces, studios, and venues
  • Compensate artists fairly for their work
  • Promote diversity and alternative perspectives within the arts
  • Recognize the role of privilege and work towards addressing it
  • Create a supportive environment for creative professionals

By challenging these myths and working towards equity, we can create a more inclusive and supportive arts community. It is not just about valuing artists and their work; it is about dismantling the systems that perpetuate inequality and providing artists with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.


The pervasive myths surrounding self-made success, the starving artist, and doing what you love undermine the true factors that contribute to an individual’s journey. It is essential to recognize that luck, privilege, and systemic barriers play significant roles in achieving success. By acknowledging these complexities and societal factors, we can gain a more accurate understanding of achievement and work towards dismantling unjust systems.

Valuing artists and promoting alternative perspectives are crucial steps towards creating equitable paths for all individuals. We must challenge the myth of being self-made and recognize the privileges that can lead to success. It is important to promote fairness and justice by supporting artists in their pursuit of creative fulfillment and advocating for systemic change.

To create a fairer and more just society, we must dismantle the myth of the starving artist and acknowledge the structural inequalities in the art world. Artists should be compensated appropriately, and alternative perspectives should be valued and supported. By promoting inclusive and equitable practices, we can create a more vibrant and diverse cultural landscape.

In conclusion, it is imperative to challenge these myths and work towards recognizing privileges, dismantling unjust systems, and creating equitable paths for artists. Only by valuing artists and promoting alternative perspectives can we foster a society that celebrates creativity and ensures equal opportunities for all.


Is luck a skill?

No, luck is not a skill. Luck refers to random or unforeseen events or circumstances that can have a positive or negative impact on outcomes. Skill, on the other hand, is the result of learning, practice, and expertise in a particular area.

What is the difference between luck and skill?

Luck is based on chance and is unpredictable, while skill is developed through practice, experience, and knowledge in a specific domain. While luck can influence outcomes, skill allows individuals to consistently perform well and achieve success.

Can luck and skill coexist?

Yes, luck and skill can coexist. Skill enhances the likelihood of success and maximizes the potential for favorable outcomes when luck presents itself. Skilled individuals are better equipped to make the most of lucky opportunities.

Can luck be learned as a skill?

No, luck cannot be learned as a skill because luck is based on probability and chance. However, individuals can develop skills that increase their ability to recognize and capitalize on lucky opportunities when they arise.

Can developing skill enhance luck?

Developing skills can improve an individual’s ability to succeed in their chosen field or area of expertise. While it doesn’t guarantee luck, skill can increase the chances of encountering fortunate circumstances and making the most of them.

What is the luck versus skill debate?

The luck versus skill debate centers around the question of how much success is attributed to luck versus skill. Some argue that luck plays a significant role, while others believe that skill and hard work are the primary factors influencing achievement.

Is luck a talent?

No, luck is not a talent. Talent refers to an innate ability or natural aptitude for something, while luck is based on chance. While talent can contribute to success, luck is unrelated to personal abilities or acquired skills.

How can skill enhance luck?

Skill enhances luck by increasing an individual’s preparedness and adaptability to seize opportunities when they arise. Skilled individuals are more likely to recognize and capitalize on lucky moments, leading to more favorable outcomes.

Is luck a developed skill?

No, luck is not a developed skill because luck is based on chance and randomness. However, individuals can develop skills that increase their ability to navigate uncertainty, adapt to changing circumstances, and make the most of lucky opportunities.

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