“It’s better to be born lucky than smart” is an old adage my mother liked to impart—usually when I came home with a barely scratched D-minus in some exam. Bless her. But apart from that obvious maternal affection for her offspring, the old darling was not wrong at all. While brains and intelligence are traditional predictors of career success, they are not necessarily factors that determine who reaps the biggest pay packages.
Recent research published by Linkoping University in Sweden confirmed that higher intelligence does indeed correspond to higher wages – but only up to a certain amount – €50,000, to be exact.
“We find no evidence that those in top jobs paying extraordinary wages earn more than those earning only half that wage,” it found. “Extreme success at work is driven by family resources or luck rather than ability.”
Luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet
Luck is a life perk often cited by successful business people, including Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the early Internet browser Netscape. “Luck plays a big part in the difference between success and failure, although many entrepreneurs will admit this only under duress, as it seriously tarnishes their image as omniscient business geniuses.”
Warren Buffett’s observation is more succinct: “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist – investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with the 130 IQ.” Often the difference comes down to personal belief: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your height.”
It’s a state of affairs backed up by a Stanford University study that shows attitude may be a better predictor of success than IQ. Psychology professor Carol Dweck found that people with a “growth mindset” embraced challenges and treated them as learning opportunities: “Failure is information — like in an attitude of ‘this didn’t work, so I’ll try something else.'”
Hard work is clearly a key factor on the road to success – always waiting for the catalyst of a lucky break to ignite it. Seneca’s sage advice from the 1st century never bores: “Happiness is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet.”
Resilience is an attitude well honed in the DNA of modern Ireland – a credo formed from the hard lessons of property crises, Brexit wrangles and global turbulence.
We make our own luck, often against the odds.
An old school friend I meet a few times a year is an excellent example of the power of an optimistic outlook.
A person who has endured his fair share of misfortune – marriage and business failures among them – yet he still brims with genuine joy for the promise of each new day. His company is so contagious that I’m still bouncing for days after our brief encounters.
None of us can control the curve balls life will throw at us, but we can control how we meet them. Another common expression of Irish mothers comes to mind: “What’s for you won’t go by you.” In the strange and wonderful game of life, sometimes not getting what we want can turn out to be the greatest happiness of all.