Success Is Mostly Luck: Never Give Yourself Full Credit

Successful mortgage refinance celebration!About once a month, I get a comment from a random reader that gives me a “power up” to keep on going. An initial burst of dismay fills my veins, followed by a tremendous boost of energy!

So much about getting ahead is believing that you will get ahead. If you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will. I've encountered this self-defeating attitude countless times with random readers, friends, loved ones, and personal finance consulting clients. This type of attitude is a dream killer. You must have the confidence in knowing that you, too, deserve everything life has to offer.

But in order to believe in yourself, you've got to take on challenges and overcome. Otherwise, you're just hoping.

Check a great comment by a reader who discredits the first 30 years of my life.

I’m leaving this comment as a general one for most of FSs blogs. I’m not trying to be insulting or condescending, as I find much of your factional information quite useful. But I have that annoying trait of wanting to put in my $.02 when I read things on blogs that bother me. It’s annoying, I know!

1. Your constant reference to “working your butt off for 13 years 60-80hrs a week is not only annoying but a major deterrent to revisiting your site. You did it when you were (and in many readers minds, still) young and single and making $250K+ a year, with the single mindset of making as much money as possible to save as much as possible. For by far, most people, this is NOT an option! If you only have to answer to yourself, and CAN work those hours, and reap substantial rewards for the workload, then why wouldn’t you.

It's a matter of opportunity and priority, that’s all. 13 years is not impressive at all, and IS insulting to many people who work many more years because they don’t have the opportunity or aptitude to do what you did. Additionally, as you’ve admitted, it was pure luck to land that job at GS at your age, with your lack of experience, again, not likely to happen to by far, to the majority.

The VAST VAST majority of people graduating from college will NEVER have the opportunity handed to them to earn that kind of money, or even the future hope to earn that in a few years, nor do normal 21 year olds have a fascination and understanding of the stock market.

You started in an industry that has the potential to earn huge money, if you are good, talented, lucky, and can work with that mindset. The vast majority will not, and can not live in a major city, be the kind of person to work in that type of finance job, not even KNOW that type of job is an option and that THAT kind of money was even possible, assuming they even have the knowledge, aptitude or discipline to even consider that job in the first place.

2. You also mention many times how you saved more than 50% of your take home pay and invested wisely to get ahead. This is great advice, and a nice point, but again who WOULDN”T be able to do that if they were young and single and making that kind of money? Assuming a net total tax of 35%, then your take home would have been $162.5k year ( I realize you didn’t make this your first year, etc, etc), but bottom line is a young kid out of college can EASILY live on $81k take home a year, even in NYC. Do it making a decent $75k gross a year, and I’d be impressed.

You say this to make a point, but it is a shallow, hollow one. Similar to your, “obviously you must max out your 401k…” where you assume that is even possible.


Despite admitting that I was lucky to get into a decent college and lucky again to get a job working in finance, he has somehow confused luck with the willingness to work 60 – 80 hours a week while I was in my 20s. You can be very lucky in life, but what you do with your opportunity is very telling. There is no luck getting into work and leaving late.

After graduation, I felt like I had won the lottery finding a job in NYC. All those shitty hours of working at McDonald's, moving boxes, and folding envelopes for $4.25 an hour made finding a $40,000 a year job all the sweeter. I could have lived it up a little, but I decided to split a studio apartment with a high school buddy in order to max out my 401k, live close to work, and eat their cafeteria food after 7:30pm.

As for 13 consecutive years of working a stressful job as being insulting, I'm sorry. That's all I know, and I'm not going to write a different story to make it sound more real. It's been 16 years now post college, and I've continued to work hard building Financial Samurai, writing books, and consulting with various fintech companies since I left Corporate America in 2012.

I would love to have made $162,500 a year in NYC as the commenter mentioned. The fact is I made $40,000 base my first year, and $55,000 base my second year as a financial analyst. We got a big base bump in year two because incoming first year analysts started getting offers for $50,000 base in 2000.  We got bonuses, and I decided to save and invest them all my first two years.


1) You can't please everyone, so don't bother trying. You've got to stick to your beliefs and run with them.

2) Seek out people who don't like you. Since you can't please everyone, you also can't get everyone to like you. The desire to get everyone to like you is your low self-esteem talking. By seeking people who don't like you, you're able to gain new perspectives as to why in order to make things even better.

3) People will always assume that you have more advantages than them. The worst situation you can be in is if you come from a wealthy household, with all the access in the world, and end up doing nothing great for yourself. This is why being middle class is the best class. You've got enough to live, but not enough where you can just cruise. Other people's success is do to luck, your success is due to hard work, perseverance, risk-taking, and skill. If you're confident enough, always attribute your success to luck. Accept that everything was handed to you, even if that might not be the case.

4) The way other people treat you is likely a projection of their own dissatisfaction. In my case, I've opened myself up to the entire English internet reading population. In your case, it might be someone at work who gives you a hard time, even though you haven't done anything to them. Just know that anger directed at you out of the blue is a reflection of something going on in their lives. Show kindness back, instead of anger.

5) Nobody will hurt you, unless you let them. One of the reasons why I seek out conflict is because conflict is such an enjoyable topic to write about! Getting thrown under the bus at work, stood up for a meeting, tormented online etc are all wonderful experiences for Financial Samurai to share. We've all been through it, and it's therapeutic to discuss about such things. Without the reader's comment, this post would not exist.


All of us don't have the same desires. If we did, this world would be one fucked up place. Nobody was born asking to be in their circumstance either. We've just got to make the best of what we have.

Related: SWEAT Dreams Of Becoming A Millionaire Again

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