To Get Luckier, Realize Success Is Mostly Luck

How to gain more luck

If you want to get luckier in life, realize that success is mostly luck. I live by the mantra, “Never fail due to a lack of effort because hard work requires no skill.”

It's a reminder to STOP making excuses when something seems too daunting to tackle. There've been too many instances when I didn't start something because I felt I lacked the skills necessary to succeed. I've regretted each non-action.

For example, I postponed starting Financial Samurai until 2009, three years after first contemplating the idea. I didn't know whether or not I could write anything insightful. In addition, I also didn't know how to start a website, despite the easy availability of free instruction. The delay cost me over a million bucks.

For those of you who want more luck, I strongly believe the more you attribute any success you have to luck and mean it, the more luck will come your way. Why? Because you won't take your luck for granted. Gratitude is what will keep propelling you forward. Let me explain by strolling down luck lane. 

Related: Conventional Wisdom Leaves Much To Luck In Investing

First, A Reminder About Luck

Here's the latest reminder to keep the ego in check from a comment left in the post, The Downside Of Financial Independence. I ended the post with the importance of working hard to not dishonor the generations before us who laid the foundation.

On generational wealth, I think people, and successful people especially attribute much of their success to hard work. The fact is, random chance plays much more of a part than we would like to admit. If our grandfather worked 18 hours per day to earn his fortune, there are likely 10 other grandfathers who worked the same 18 hours per day but never became wealthy.

I am moderately successful and sure I work hard. But so do most people. I am successful because early in my career, a hiring manager decided to take a chance on a smart ass kid. Had that not happened, my trajectory would be completely different (for better or worse).

In other words, all our ancestors emigrated at some point. All had to work hard to get ahead. Some got farther than others. Therefore, my great grandparents were simply luckier than others to establish homes and raise families in Taiwan and Hawaii, respectively.

The instant you start telling yourself that most of your success is due to hard work is the instant you start losing your lucky momentum. Your wealth is mostly due to luck. It's important to recognize some of your life's luckiest moments in order to rid yourself of attributing success to hard work. Only with humility will you be able to generate more luck in the future.

Three Lucky Breaks

Here are three lucky breaks that have really shaped my life.

Fell In Love Thanks To Luck

1) Meeting my wife in college. Life is easier with a life partner. But some folks don't find their soulmate until later in life. Some never find someone at all. I was extremely lucky to meet my wife when I was a senior in college. It was unexpected because I was 100% focused on getting a job. She wasn't on my radar junior year because she was still in high school then.

As my focus was to free up time for job interviews, I took fluffier courses like Advanced Golf and Japanese 101. Hooray for a Liberal Arts education that taught me how to build relationships over four hours on a golf course with important people! Even better was Japanese 101 because that's where I met my wife.

My original purpose for learning Japanese was to become proficient enough to charm female tourists while back home in Hawaii. I also thought I'd be able to get an easy A just chilling in the back row. Instead, Japanese 101 was the first course I ever got a D on a test! It was a beautiful D, however, because my future wife offered to help me with my studies.

Meeting my wife at William & Mary was 100% luck! She could have very easily decided to attend UVA in Charlottesville where her mom worked. Luckily for me, she chose William & Mary instead because she wanted a more intimate classroom setting. UVA's 20,000+ student population at the time was 5X larger than William & Mary's. Further, we couldn't have met at UVA because I was only wait-listed. So in a very large way, I owe William & Mary a massive debt of gratitude for taking a chance on me.

My future wife was the one who called me at 5:30am to make sure I'd get to my 8am interview on time back in 1998. She was the one who consoled me after each job rejection. When I moved to San Francisco in June 2001, she decided to graduate six months early to join me that December since I hardly knew anyone. In late 2014, she negotiated her own severance package to keep me company during early retirement. Now she's the COO and CFO of our little lifestyle business.

Having a best friend to experience the majority of your life with is truly lucky.

2) Getting a job offer from a major investment bank in 1999. I began interviewing with Goldman starting in 1998 at a finance career job fair in Washington DC. It was a pretty cutthroat environment with a lot of go-getters from some pretty good schools like Georgetown and Duke. One female recruiter from Merrill Lynch even looked down on me for wearing a teddy bear tie holding a balloon that my girlfriend gave me. Thanks a lot you cold-hearted wench!

Seven round trips from school to NYC, 55 interviews, and two weeks after graduating from The College of William & Mary in May 1999 later, I finally got an email offering me a job. It was so very exciting.

It would be easy to attribute my getting a job at a major investment bank to my interviewing skills and perseverance. But the fact is, if I had interviewed better, I might have gotten the job offer much quicker! When I spoke with my incoming colleagues, I learned that the average number of interviews they'd had was about 15. In other words, having undergone 3.5X more interviews, clearly I was lucky to get through the gauntlet.

Further, no one else from William & Mary got a job offer from GS that year. Nor did anybody get a job offer from GS the year prior. The only reason I was given the opportunity to interview was due to a GS recruiter named Kim Purkiss who selected my resume at the career fair. She fought for me during the recruiting process, and I owe so much to her.

If I didn't get a job at GS, I wouldn't have bought VCSY in early 2000, the multi-bagger stock that grew from $3,000 – $150,000 in six short months. Without VCSY, I wouldn't have felt comfortable buying a $580,500, 2/2 condo in Pacific Heights a couple years later that has now doubled in value and commands $4,200/month in rent with no mortgage.

Without working in finance for 13 years, I wouldn't be able to write about investing, real estate, and retirement with ease. And without Financial Samurai, I'm not sure whether I would've left my job in 2012 because I wouldn't have known what to do with myself.

A Lucky Encounter For Financial Samurai

3) Financial Samurai to 1 million organic pageviews a month. Starting a website is easy. Growing a website is the fun and hard part. I do believe most people who publish 2 – 4X a week without fail for three years will be able to generate a livable income stream online e.g. $2,000 – $5,000/month. However, only a lucky few can get to 1 million organic pageviews a month without any advertising, a forum, or public self-promotion.

Financial Samurai featured in many major media publications

My lucky break came in 2010 when The LA Times money columnist, Kathy Kristof highlighted my post, Get An Umbrella Policy, Your Teenager Is Going To Bankrupt You.

It was just an average post, but it was relevant to Kathy. I met up with Kathy at a conference in 2016. And she said at the time, she had a teenage son who she always worried about. Therefore, the post really resonated with her when she was perusing personal finance blogs to highlight. Talk about 100% luck!

Once The LA Times featured Financial Samurai, other large media organizations began following suit. The more large media organizations highlight your work, the more credibility and traffic you get. Now the badge of honor is jam packed with media mentions eight years later.

Related: Conventional Wisdom Leaves Much To Luck In Investing

More Lucky Breaks With Blogging

One of the more recent lucky breaks was when social media got hold of Scraping By On $500,000 A Year. That came out of nowhere because I wrote the post in 2015. Because that post was viewed several million times, it provided a shift up in traffic that I'm still experiencing months later.

Even more recently, Yahoo decided to highlight The Dark Side Of Early Retirement on its homepage. How cool is that? For website owners, this is kind of like winning the lottery. Companies literally spend tens of thousands of dollars a month with PR companies to try to get this type of exposure.

And here I was getting it for free without having to pimp myself. It's complete luck to get featured and have my writing stand on its own! From this feature, traffic doubled for several days, bringing in new readers along the way.

Financial Samurai On Yahoo Front Page

So how did this lucky break occur? Erin, a deputy managing editor randomly reached out and asked if she could republish the post and I told her, “Of course! Take everything and my little pony too!”

Perhaps she reached out because she noticed the Scraping By On $500K post from the month prior since the post talked about a New York City couple and the editor currently lives in NYC as well. Who knows! But I didn't ask because I didn't want to annoy her.

There are far better writers with much longer writing careers who've never gotten featured on the front page of Yahoo. I'm definitely not as deserving as many other people.

Don't Take Your Luck For Granted

I used to believe success was around 50% luck / 50% hard work. How can hard work not be a big part of the equation when you first start out? Now I believe success is closer to 80% luck / 20% hard work the farther you pull away from the median.

We can't control the 80%, but we can control the 20% so we might as well try. To take my luck for granted would be to dishonor the millions of other people out there who are not as lucky.

The longer you work at your craft, the luckier you'll get. You just have to be patient, like the fisherman who sets up his station every morning without fail, hoping to reel in the catch of a lifetime.

Finally, I do believe in karma. The more we can do to help other people, the luckier we'll get. I wish each and every one of you the best of luck. And when you get a fortuitous break, don't forget to share!

What percentage does luck play in success (however you define success)?

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Financial Samurai has been online since 2009 and is one of the most trusted and largest independently-run personal finances today.

Related: Grow Stronger By Humbling Yourself Each Year

Readers, what kind of lucky breaks have you had in your life? What are some of the things you've incorrectly attributed to hard work that in reality were mostly due to luck?

115 thoughts on “To Get Luckier, Realize Success Is Mostly Luck”

  1. But none of your examples were about luck. It’s great that you met your wife, but there are thousands, if not millions of other people in the world who would also be perfect matches for you. You could have met several of them if you hadn’t met your wife. Or you could be perfectly happy single!

    Also getting a job after several interviews is a prime example of how it’s not luck that lands you the job. If it had been luck, that would mean that the recruiter threw a bunch of resumes in the air and randomly picked yours. But even then you would have had to make all the work to even end up in the situation where you can send a resume to them. 55 interviews means that they definitely weren’t gambling.

    1. Thousands, I’d not millions of life partners! I highly doubt it.

      A lot of people think they are lucky, and then get divorced too.

      Finding someone way early in life is super lucky. Just like having health kids early in life and doing OK is super lucky. Can’t take this luck for granted.

      Here are more examples of wealth and luck.

  2. Mr. Hammocker

    Doesn’t entirely sound like luck. There is a lot of grit and passion that goes into success. Sam, you are successful because you are determined. You have a unique gift of inspiring people to get out of their financial handcuffs. Sure, there is some luck, but that luck tends to happen after several years of consistent hard work. Your success is well deserved.

  3. Great topic, Sam! I’ve been obsessed with luck for the past year. I certainly believe you can improve your luck. As your experience highlights, lucky people just do more things. We ask, “Is it better to be good or lucky?” I say it’s better to be good at being lucky. If you didn’t attend that career fair, you would have missed out on the luck at GS. If you didn’t decide to blog, you would’ve missed out on that feature in the LA Times. But we’re also lucky that you share your insight with us and help us improve our financial lives!

    If anyone is interested, my whole post and thoughts on improving your luck can be found here in the URL field.

  4. Terry Pratt

    Most of us can expect to have a non-zero number of potentially life-changing opportunities in our lifetimes.

    For many of us, these opportunities can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Some will have considerably more opportunities.

    My one best suggestion is to always be prepared to take full advantage of these rare opportunities when they present themselves.

  5. Clearly luck does play a role in success. Often say, I was lucky to join a company that grew 25x with stock options that were widely distributed. One of my earliest managers was tough with the purpose to foster resilience and I was lucky he hired me. And while I tend to be risk adverse, more opportunities emerged. And the best luck, a good family .

  6. I have an interesting story about luck and hard work. I run a website that net around a million dollars a year for the last 10 years. The only reason that I even started the website was because my brother was bitching to me one day 10 years ago about a website that ripped him off. After looking at the site and deciding that I can build a better site, 10 years later I am retired in my early 30s. However, prior to that I had spent ten years in affiliate marketing which gave me the experience and knowledge that I needed to build and market this site. So from my experience it’s been 50/50.

    I often look back and think about how things could have turned out differently if it wasn’t for that one event.

  7. Moderate Money

    I believe in “odds” and not fate and that is how I try to live my life on a daily basis. By putting the odds in my favor each day, I am putting myself in a better position to get “lucky”, whatever that really means. By working hard and learning everyday, Im increasing my odds at career and financial success. Exercising everyday increases my odds of living a healthy life. Frequently networking with others increases my odds of building valuable business relationships. By constantly working to put the odds in my favor, I won’t consider success to be luck, just a result of many small steps to get there.

  8. I think success is as a result of luck, hard work and relationships. I work in the music industry and many of my jobs and promotions have been secured through relationships – family and friendship ties alongside aggressive networking and working to maintain an excellent reputation across the industry. Relationships can give you great opportunities, even in the most difficult of times and when all else seems lost… What you do today to be supportive, helpful and fair to your colleagues and clients will nearly always come back to you in years to come in the way of referrals and recommendations

  9. VCSY…a stock so near and dear to me as that was my lucky break as well. Let me know if you ever want to know the backstory to that company!

    1. I do! All I know is that they’re in the time it had a keypad as it’s homepage and we all had hopes that it would be the next grade Chinese Internet stock. Then it went crazy because we were sharing the idea with each other on all the trading desk across the street. Then I saw one of the founders cash offer 1 million bucks.

      1. Vcsy came about as a reverse merger with a shell company. The original business was an inventory management system for pawn shops. That entity didn’t survive and the stock traded down to a fraction of a penny and basically became another shell. That’s when the current company did the same type of reverse merger during the height of the dot com craziness and started running because of the reasons you said. I didn’t realize your part in that!!

        1. That is so wild. So incredibly wild. I think that stock pick was probably the only truly lucky thing in your post. You could have held it or bought a different wild company at the time.

  10. Luck is definitely a part of success, sometimes it’s the only part that matters. There are types of luck though, and often we don’t recognize luck when we find it.

    As, for me I was orphaned at 16. I had some lucky advantages though – I grew up in Marin County, son of a lawyer and banker. My parents didn’t leave me much.

    I quit college to take a job at a video game company that went on to be outrageously successful.

    I was “lucky” but I knew when I took the job that the place was going to be successful. There was luck there, but I also worked my ass off.

    Thinking of luck, I’m always reminded of the Heinlein quote, “Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet you can’t win.”

  11. I try as hard as I can, but I believe luck and destiny plays an important part in my life.

    The thing is I don’t know what luck has in plan for me, so I had to plan ahead for myself and prepare for the worst. If good things happen instead, then it’s perfect! if not, I already have a plan to fall back on.

  12. I guess I like to the change the word luck to ” opportunity,” then this whole thing will make more sense to me at least.
    As a woman had I been born two generations ago, I simply did not have the opportunities that I have today. Having a good education, a good job, freedom to live my life the way I want (including backpacking all over the world) was just not an option for both my grandmothers!!! But sure I had to work hard to get where I am, not everybody got into the school that I went and got a job where I got and works over 60 hours per week, or dares to backpack around the world..( Just got back from Patagonia).
    On the downside I know of countless people who had all the opportunities in the world and blew through it. I have a friend who comes from old money, and has a cousin who has been in and out of prison for drug possession way too many times that I can recall. I went to school with him, very smart kid with a trust fund that unfortunately took away all his motivation for doing something with his life. My friend on the other hand, took the opportunity (trust fund)and now works mainly as a pro bono attorney for battered and abused women.
    As you like to put it, at the end of the day everything is rational. You can only play with the hand that you were given, so you make the best of it.
    My hand did not include being born in a refugee camp in Darfur, but at the same time it did not include a trust fund. I am obviously humbled by the opportunities that I have had in life and will try to work hard to recognizing more opportunities that life will bring my way, but at the same time won’t fret over what I can’t have and learn to accept and let go when things are not meant to be :)

    1. Very well said. My mother’s favorite class was physics. She would have liked to pursue a career as a physicist, but those jobs weren’t really open to women even one generation ago. I’m thankful that my “sisters” from a previous generation paved the way so women like myself can have careers in science and other areas.

  13. Hi Sam,

    I don’t find you particularly lucky at all. I do find you successful, humble, and grateful, but not lucky.

    No matter how great you think your wife is I think mine is better! If you were truly lucky you would have met my wife first.

    Second, there are over 6 million people in the financial service industry. In my eyes the guys who only had to work 40 hours a week to achieve the same level of financial success you achieved by working 80 are way luckier than you. what about the guys who only worked 20 hours a week or 10 to achieve the same result. Are they luckier than you?

    Hitting a ten bagger, yeah maybe a little luck but in a previous post you wrote about your thought process before you bought the stock. During those time with the market the way it was your thesis was one of the more sound ones I heard.

    Reaching a million page views on FinancialSamurai is definitely not lucky!! The content is some of the best on the web. I actually think you’re unlucky Bloomberg or Forbes hasn’t bought you out for big bucks.

    We should all feel fortunate to live in such a great company. Most of us should be eternally grateful for who and what we have in our life. But Lucky?

    Luck is when you accidentally miss your flight and the plane goes down.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. Haha nice one about your wife. I guess we’ll never know will we.

      Luck is definitely relative based on your examples you gave on work and the number of hours.

      1 million page views a month is definitely mostly lucky. Try talking to the entire web industry on sites that can gain this level of traffic with no advertising or publicity. Most of the traffic is from search engines, and search engines really cannot be gamed over the long run.

  14. hey Sam, when the 2008-9 financial collapse happened did you sell everything or just ride it out?
    You mentioned that it was the catalyst for starting this site and you lost 30% ~ but don’t say if that was a paper loss or real.

    Lots of people bailed and lost but those who held on saw a huge bull market.

    You could say it’s luck that you didn’t invest with Bernie Madoff and got scammed. those are the stories that tick me off. corporate fraud is the worst.

    1. I just rode it out and started investing more in 2010 when I survived about 20 rounds of layoffs.

      A lot of my investments were liquid, so I couldn’t get out. For example, my vacation property in Lake Tahoe, my private equity investment in bulldog gin, in my private real estate investment in real estate assets all over the world with a seven year vesting period.

      Thankfully everything turned out OK. But things could’ve easily turned out bad.

      How about you? It is crazy to invest in the biggest bull market of all time.

      1. Luckily (or not) I didn’t have that much invested so I didn’t panic sell…but I should have poured money into the market the few years after. Wasn’t until 2013 that I thought I better get on this bull train! I’m mostly in S&P 500 indexes and some tech stocks (Amazon, Google…) At least I’ve doubled my $ since then, also as I am in Canada I’ve done well with the US dollar rising. That alone is a 30% plus gain in the past few years.

        if you look long term, 20-30 year period then things will always rebound. Some of the other financial blogs advocate 90-100% stock portfolios if you are young and looking for aggressive growth. Once you have your nest egg and want less volatility then you go bonds, fixed income…

        Why do you say it’s crazy to invest in this bull market, you are fearing a big correction soon? If Trump messes up then it could happen.

        1. Joe, how old are you? A lot of rest depends on age and where you are on your financial journey. I don’t think it’s crazy to invest in stocks at all. But I do think it is not wise to invest most of your net worth in the stock market if you are already retired or are close to retiring.

          1. I’m late 30’s but like many young people I didn’t give much thought into saving in my 20’s. I only started paying attention to finances the past few years. Like most I figured I would work until 60-65. I had no idea there were people retired by 30’s or 40’s.

            So now there’s a shift in my mindset and I will save as much as possible. I’m aiming to work 10-15 years and build my nut. Agree there could be a big drop soon in the markets but I hope to live long enough to reap the gains.

            If you can live another 30-40 years realistically then you shouldn’t be too worried about a crash. Both the dot com and 08 ones recovered within 3-4 years.

  15. Birth advantage plays the biggest part at maybe 50-80%. Luck is maybe 10%. Effort is maybe 10-40%. Sure there are people who came from nothing and get lucky. That isn’t the average though. The large portion of those with a lot of wealth had an advantage. Even if it was just a good education or a family friend who got them started in a business. You write of getting lucky, but you also don’t know the other paths not taken. You could have had a worse, better or no wife. You could have started the blog early failed early on and decided to quit. The things that happened did because you made them happen, including pursuing your wife and making a decision to be with her. You started to get media attention because you wrote an article that resonated with that reader. Still not luck. It really just depends on how you view things.

  16. I think luck trumps most things. It’s hard to understand the lottery of birth when you are the Powerball winner, because you want to believe that it was you that made the money and your good fortune, but generally speaking it just isn’t true. My best friend married really wealthy, and one day I was sitting at the pool with her, her husband and his friend. His friend was talking about her husband’s family business, which is based upon 10% business and 90% luck IMO. Because of this business, her husband and his brothers could pursue any path they wanted, knowing they had that backing them up. My friend’s husband got mad when I implied that, and I wanted to turn to him and say his life is 99% luck. He “works” hard as an investor, but you have to have money to make money. He has never had a real job in his life, and has no appreciation for how hard it would be for most people to have the type of money he has. My husband and I do really well, top 5% of income and will never be able to touch their level of wealth. I have no problem with that, we don’t need to be on the same level, but I always get the feeling that he thinks it’s our fault we don’t have their kind of money.

  17. Hi Sam,
    I truly enjoyed that post. Thanks for your humility and honor. I too feel lucky for meeting my wife, the parents I was blessed to have, my health, the mentors who taught me the importance of saving/investing money. Gosh, I truly had so little to do with my success. 90% was luck and 10% was effort.

  18. It only took 6 months of fear to actually get me to create a blog. It was after i met with other Rockstar forum people in person that actually got me the motivation.

    I reflect on how i got to where i am a lot. There isn’t a thing i can’t link back to pure luck or chance. I would much rather apply cosmic luck to my general life that to waste any at the casino though ;)

  19. I can’t believe successful people here are attributing their success to luck. I have been terrified to bring up the L word since senior year when my best friend (at the time) lectured me for a good 20 minutes about how it’s rude to tell someone they’re lucky because they got X. I didn’t mean any harm when I told her she was “lucky” to have a job lined up after graduation for a studio art major. “Art is all about talent and the hustle. It’s never luck.” Boy…was she mad.

    I had dated a guy in the Marina who was a 28 year old COE and he absolutely rejected the notion of luck. He got to where he is by working constantly (it’s true) but he was lucky to have been brought up in a warm, safe household. He was lucky to have a caring mother give up her PhD so she can devote her attention to raising him. I wasn’t trying to take away his accomplishments at all. He does deserve everything he works for!
    I just wanted him to see his humanity. Not take away his accomplishments. I’m still not going to use the L word, I’m literally scared to accuse others of luck.

    1. It definitely used to annoy me I was younger whatever someone told me I was just lucky. But the older you get, the more you realize Luck plays a greater and greater factor in your life.

      So now, if someone tells me I’m lucky, I tell them they’re absolutely right. I can’t believe my luck and I hope it continues. But if it goes away, then at least it was fun while it lasted.

      Just don’t text someone at 3am who has been grinding for 80 hours that week they’re lucky. All will be good!

  20. Charleston.C

    I am lucky to be healthy, allowing me to work hard. I am lucky to have a personality that is generally level headed and logical, allowing me to tackle tough situations in a professional manner. I am lucky to have the extra bit of motivation to keep me moving forward, when others may give up.

    We all need to work hard but not all of us are given the opportunity to do so. For that I am grateful.

  21. Great blog post Sam. I appreciate how hard it can be for successful and ambitious people to realize the role of luck. But totally agree with what you’ve proposed here. I’ve been reading Scott Adams’ most recent book and he also does a good job acknowledging good luck and fostering more of it. Thanks for the great reminder!

  22. I have experienced success to be more likely the result of exposing yourself to lots and lots of opportunities.
    You may apply 100 jobs and the 101 is the perfect match.
    All your friends believe that you were lucky.
    You have met a person with influence at a job fair and he/she is willing to mentor you.
    Luck? Only if you do not consider the 35 job fairs you went to without talking to someone helpful.
    I would rather think that success is 5% luck and 95% try and error.

    1. In the beginning, it’s more effort than luck that’s for sure. But towards the end, it’s more luck than effort if you start pulling away from the median.

      It is true that nobody got on the career fair bus at 6:30 AM to go to Washington DC. We waited for about 30 minutes and decided to take a town car and stood by switching the bus. But I didn’t get on the bus, there would be no job for sure.

  23. I think you do yourself a disservice! Sure, it sounds lucky that you managed to drive that much traffic to your blog organically and get posts featured on major websites – but you made that happen!

    If you didn’t put the work in to create a site full of great information that resonates with people, those opportunities would never have come your way, luck or not. Give yourself some credit! :)

  24. Ms Positive

    You can say some people are lucky and some just don’t find luck…I was brought up as Catholic and praying to God is whom that will guide us. Some maybe lucky in money and not so lucky in love. Some maybe lucky in love but not so lucky in health. No matter what type of luck you may have, there is always something that may not be so lucky in. The best way is staying positive and staying with positive vibes and surroundings. It only takes one negative to break a positive. Once negative strikes, luck can come tumbling down. Luck is like a Volcano, it can erupt anytime. Nobody controls luck, your luck is unpredictable. Luck cannot be master or bought. A person is either born with Luck or Misfortune.

    1. You are very right on just taking one bad break to have everything cascade down around you. And when dad bad break comes, I hope we can look back and appreciate all the luck we had until then and forge on through.

      An accident is just right around the corner. But we can’t live our lives thinking this way.

  25. It seems to me that luck isn’t something you can assign a percentage to. I look at it this way: the more you build up a cross-section for events/encounters/opportunities (the work part), the higher chance you have that something will happen (the luck part). Michael Shermer at SKEPTIC magazine used to analyze successful scientists’ personalities and why they were successful. The two key factors were “openness” (to new ideas/experiences, etc.) and “critical” (willing to challenge preexisting or new ideas). Someone who is “open” has a high cross-section for events to happen, and being critical allows them to figure out if these events are positive or worth acting on.

  26. I’m the luckiest guy I know. My friend says if I trip in the street, I’ll get up with a $100 bill stuck to my forehead. HR sent me an email today telling me that they made an error, and several thousand dollars would be added to my next check! Yay me!

    I think that luck is massive – starts with your genetic predisposition to intelligence and hard work, and moves through the types of intelligence you have, which relates to income, which relates to wealth, which relates, ultimately to Pez consumption.

  27. Stealth Saver

    Interesting article, although I did have an observation. You say in your article:

    “Now I believe success is closer to 80% luck / 20% hard work.” I agree with this statement if you are in a Casino, or happen to post a video of yourself laughing in a chewbacca mask.

    But when working for a living I believe that success is 10% luck / 90% hard work. As I don’t believe those lucky breaks would become available without all the work put in up front.

    In your examples I think number 1 was 100% luck, 2 was 50/50, but 3 was 100% hard work, I don’t believe you would have gotten those articles featured if you weren’t pumping out 3 well written articles a week to begin with.

    Thanks for letting me share! :)

    1. For #3, I would say it’s 98% luck to get to the 1M+ organic pageview figure. If the figure was 100,000 pageviews a month, I would say that’s more like 25% luck. But to get to over 1M a month means you’ve had tremendous lucky breaks w/ Google’s algorithm rankings and outside media attention, which cannot be affected.

      Well I guess I could spend $50,000 a month on advertising and a PR company to generate the viewership… but then that’s not too organic.

  28. Seems like two sides of the same coin. If you don’t work hard, you don’t create the potential for luck to fulfill. If you work a minimum wage part time job and live in mom’s basement, getting lucky is finding $10 or a cheap xbox on Craigslist. If you work hard and build a lot more room for luck, fulfilling that potential has bigger effects – that big client, that new product takes off, your rental gets a great long-term tenant, etc.

    I guess it depends on how you define success. Is success due to what you’ve done to prepare for luck, or the luck that came and fulfilled the potential of your hard work? I’d say you need both, but we can only control one half, and it’s a prerequisite for the other half.

    It depends on your goal, too. You said posting 2-4x/week for 3 years is likely to lead to a livable income. Is making a livable income off blogging from home “lucky”? If you think so, then success is surely more about hard work than luck, since you can mostly disregard luck with enough sustained effort. But you can NEVER disregard the hard work of creating potential for bigger luck in the first place.

    Luck is the frosting, and it can be thick or thin, but you always need a little cake for it to go on. Heck, even winning the lottery requires one to get off their ass and buy a ticket.

    What is luck without work? Ineffective. What is work without luck? Ineffectual.

    I voted 25%-49%, for the record.

    1. “You said posting 2-4x/week for 3 years is likely to lead to a livable income. Is making a livable income off blogging from home “lucky”? If you think so, then success is surely more about hard work than luck, since you can mostly disregard luck with enough sustained effort. But you can NEVER disregard the hard work of creating potential for bigger luck in the first place.”

      To answer your question. No, it’s not so much lucky here. It’s more grit and hard work.

      But to get to 1 million+ organic pageviews a month is LUCK, luck and more luck. I have no way of deciding whether Google decides to rank some random article #1 in the search results. I know SEO fundamentals, but don’t do anything beyond the fundamentals b/c I’d rather write.

      I also have no way of determining whether some popular Twitter user tweets out my post and causes a viral sensation. Or if an editor of a major publication reaches out. These are random, lucky events that create a demand curve shift.

  29. A distant friend who finished a music degree use to get hired at tech startups almost immediately as a marketer, office manager, sales executive at $60,000 salaries while business admin guys, website building guys were passed over without another look. Is this luck? She partied with her startup executives, met her dork husband at one of these parties, married in months resulting in a combined net worth higher than me.

    She works at real estate sales now when she becomes bored at home and feels the need to get out of the house. She works when she wants, she doesn’t work when she doesn’t want to. She lives in the Bay Area in Los Gatos in a three million dollar, 5000 sq.ft home. She gets catering for every occasion and party celebration. Who knew caterer’s cut your sandwiches in shapes of fish, animals, cars. Regular donuts are stringed together in an art sculpture before being eaten. With fresh flowers each time to make your eating experience even better.

    I’ve worked much, much harder than her for 10 years but she is more successful than me.

    1. Yes, she’s had more luck than you. Ask her what her secret is!

      Building her own wealth and marrying a startup executive might surely help. I have no doubt the house in Los Gatos is $3M+.

  30. CrossingFingers

    In less than a month, my company will get acquired by an even larger company – our home base is in Silicon Valley and I work out of our NY office. Immediately after the merger, I’d love to get “lucky” and get laid off with a handsome severance that’s been outlined for the all current employees — I doubt that there is any wiggle room for negotiations. However, I don’t think I will get “lucky”because our division is one of the desirable properties for the buying company – there is no volunteer severance option. Is there anything proactive I can do to make this “luck” happen?

  31. Thanks for this post. We have to recognize that luck plays a part in success.

    Mr. Groovy and I would like to think we were smart enough to devise our 3-year exit strategy from NY so that we could sell our condo at the height of the market as we did. But we chose that 3-year period because the end of it marked the 20 years Mr, G needed at his job to collect any kind of pension. We got lucky.

    But I also agree that luck favors the prepared. And you write very truthfully in a way that touches people.

        1. We were on Long Island. It was 2006 which was the height for LI. We sold for $340K. Mr. Groovy purchased it in 1998 for $70K. No capital gains tax. After fees, realtor, and the mortgage we walked away with over $250K. A year later the same kind of unit was selling in the low 200s. None has sold higher than ours since. NYC/Manhattan is a different story.
          Another lucky break – had we stayed we would have been wiped out by the storm Sandy. We would have been temporarily displaced until the building was put back together.

          1. My brother invests in Master Limited Partnerships which have tax advantages due to the pass through nature of the entity. But MLPs are too complicated and volatile for me.

  32. Wow, featured on the Yahoo front page? Lucky in one sense, but also the result of hard work and quality output.

    Personally, I’ve been lucky in too many ways to possibly mention them all, but most importantly not being killed or seriously injured in my birthday motorcycle accident 14 years ago. Gives me another reason to celebrate my birthday, and taught me the financial discipline that eventually led me to found Enwealthen.

  33. I find that people who attribute a lot to luck – usually have had disproportionate success. Like movie stars and celebrities, where money and fame grow exponentially and not linearly.

    If the success you’ve had is proportionate (in your mind) to the hardwork you’ve done then usually you attribute it to hard work. This is what the middle class usually experiences – invest your money make 8% on average – if you were consistently making 30% on index funds (passive) while the rest of the world was making 8% (lets assume, also passive) then surely anyone would feel “lucky”!

    1. It’s an interesting observation, and you may be right.

      If you get so far outside the average/median it has to be luck. When you’re still within 1 or 2 standard deviations, you feel more hard work play a factor. Is a guy worth $1Billion, 1000X smarter than a person worth $1 million? Of course not.

      The other thing to note is your results versus your expectations. I’m happy with what I have, but surpassed my goals several years ago. I don’t have a desire to create much larger financial goals as I wrote in my About page in 2009. Once you have freedom, you feel like the richest and luckiest person in the world.

    2. Or the people who aren’t that hardworking. I’m pretty lazy and consider luck to be the greatest factor in my success – mostly from genetics and location.

      I make around half of what a lot of the people on here make, but I work half the hours. The ~4% income percentile is comfortable enough to live off and allow for early retirement, without killing myself to get to the 1%. I don’t try very hard in the large corporates I work for and do the opposite of Sam’s workplace advice.

      I find a lot of people who have to or have chosen to work harder are more judgemental to people in poor circumstances that don’t take into consideration luck.

  34. Luck is very much a success factor. I believe there are many omens and opportunities placed in our path on a frequent basis, it comes down to learning how to recognize those opportunities and taking advantage of them.

    Thanks for writing this post. I must now go write a thank you letter to the individuals who took a risk and gave me my lucky career break 8 years ago.

  35. Bossman @ shakafi

    Great perspective and humility. Obviously your hard work paid off, but so much of everything that happens is purely luck.

    I moved to a ski town after college that had an infamous 7-1 guy/girl ratio. Odds were not good for me finding love. I was on my way out the door of the local club because I had to get up early for work, when a friend walked in and told me I “couldn’t leave because someone (my future wife) wants to meet me”. I obviously stayed a little longer after seeing the gorgeous lady. The friend then immediately went over to her as I went to buy some drinks and told her that I really wanted to meet her and was coming over in a minute. We met, chatted, hit if off, but I didn’t get her number. They said they’d come to lunch at the cafe I was working for the next day.

    The next day I was sitting out back at work taking a break wondering when they’d show up, when my friend walked by. She was alone. She said she had to leave town immediately because of a family emergency, but she gave me the lovely lady’s phone number on the spot.

    That was literally the last time that either one of us ever saw her. She never came back to town, and neither my wife, not I had any way to contact her, as this was before cell phones were a thing.

    Talk about luck!

  36. FullTimeFinance

    I totally agree, luck plays a huge part. But.. luck favors the prepared. The hard work and skill come into taking advantage of the opportunities luck brings.

  37. Sam, this is another accurate post.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes a lot about this (Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, etc). His point (and yours) is similar – we like to attribute a lot of events to what is described as the narrative fallacy. Our desire to create a story of success and effort appears to engineer our success.

    In reality, a holistic view of all people attempting all endeavors would show that what separates the successful from the not successful is not skill or effort, but luck. So many have equal talents and invest similar effort. As you eloquently put it, to even have exposure to luck you need to enter the game by investing effort and applying skill; but once you do, there is no guarantee of success…

  38. Considering yourself lucky is helpful because it encourages you to be humble, be grateful and be giving to others. Circumstances drives our luck. I consider myself lucky purely because I’m comfortably sitting in this chair typing this comment while there are people out there making less than minimum wage working their butt off and scraping by……NOT for 500k a year by the way :-)

  39. Hey Sam,

    I cannot help but think I may have became like you in another life. But my current life is a stark contrast to yours. I agree with you that there are circumstances out of our control that shapes our destiny. I don’t view it as luck but more so divine intervention.

    1. It is fortunate you had someone who stuck by you thick and thin — who comforted you and encouraged you after all that rejection. I thought I had someone but she left me at the first sign of trouble — when I left a lucrative profession. My outlook on love is not as rosy as yours. No one comforted me. No one encouraged me. No one accommodated me and inconvenienced themselves on my behalf. I doubt I will ever marry. I doubt I can ever trust one woman to be my companion and may “diversify.”

    2. Through divine intervention, I got into my field on the first try. After leaving (as mentioned above), through divine intervention, I bounced back on the first try. No person pulled me up. No person vouched for me. And looking back, I did everything wrong and wonder how I got to where I am today. Even so, here I am and I wouldn’t be surprised if I make over half a million a year. Again, that’s possible because I call the shots, I can go anywhere and work whatever hours since I am only accountable to myself. I’m relatively young compared to your readers so who knows what will happen in 10 or 20 years. But due to the chronic shortage and stable demand, I know what I have will be for life.

    3. I’m probably going to work for the rest of my life though. When I first tried out my field, I didn’t consider it an option. I only chose it because I hated everything else. It became my only option … a do or die scenario. But through divine intervention, I really enjoy it and I’m good at it. I thank God for my circumstance as often as I can. It may not lead to a blog (since I don’t have much free time) but would lead to other forms of investments and businesses.

    1. Alex, thanks for sharing. At least you’re doing what you like to do. I’d work in finance forever if I loved it. But that joy faded after the financial crisis for sure.

      For 1), I feel very, VERY fortunate. It’s been a really good ride, and there’s no fear of wondering whether she is with me for other reasons since we both started as broke college students. It’s as pure of a relationship as one can find.

      Don’t give up on finding someone! I’d leverage the internet to increase the volume of people you can meet to find that one. GL!

  40. I love when a successful person such as yourself is humble enough to acknowledge the role that luck plays in life. Too often people will say that their successes are due only to their own hard work and can’t understand why others cannot succeed as they have. Of course, other factors like hard work are very important but luck definitely plays a big role. And I loved reading more about details about your life in general…career and how you met your wife. Good stuff!

  41. Jack Catchem

    I should be dead a few times over. I’ll cut straight to the easy ones:

    Iraq 2003 – bad guy had his explosive device turned around backwards. I lived and a whole lot of shrubbery paid the price.

    Afghanistan 2009 – made eye contact with a suicide bomber 20 feet away. Fortunately I was hugging 2 important local elders and the guy called off the hit by running away.

    First one was luck, the second good tactics. Luck isn’t EVERYTHING.

    1. Wow! Glad you survived!

      Close calls must make living feel so much better yeah?

      I haven’t had a close call w/ death yet. Perhaps only in my dreams. Waking up to bad dreams feels wonderful.

  42. What kind of weirdo has a problem with teddy bear ties? That is just sad.

    I enjoyed this post Sam. I have always believed that luck plays an enormous role in our lives. I recently used one of my favourite Bill Bryson quotes in a post of my own. I’ll reproduce it here:

    “Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favoured evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely – make that miraculously – fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forbears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise defected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly – in you.”

    Just considering the the enormous dose of luck it takes to just be alive here on this planet at this time blows my mind.

  43. Luck was the difference between earning nothing, 8 figures, or 9 figures for me (I ended up at 8). It easily could have gone in any of those directions, regardless of how many hours I put in. I think such is the state of global finance now. Everything happens in an instant.

  44. Solid lessons. Luck definitely plays a role in whether you can be successful or not but hard work pays a good part in that too. That’s amazing to hear how you got picked up by media to get some major coverage. Although you were lucky to get picked up by these online sites, you wrote these articles that were relevant, without them you wouldn’t be picked up.

  45. I think luck and hard work is more balanced than you propose. I think there is another factor that plays a large role as well. Success comes, in my mind, when the right opportunity lines up with the right skills/abilities and motivation. Sometimes 2 people may have worked just as hard and had access to the same opportunities but the reason one might succeed and the other not, would be the focus and direction of the hard work. Some may succeed simply in working hard and getting lucky but I believe those who know what their success is and understand how to focus their work and work smarter towards that goal are more likely to achieve it. I think that focused/targeted element is missing and maybe the reason some of the other 10 grandfathers from your analogy may have not had the same success of the 1.

  46. This is great food for thought. So much of what we’re taught is that success stems from hard work. I do believe that’s true but you’re very right about luck also having a huge impact too. I never thought about the ratio of luck versus hard work on success before. Thinking about it now, I too owe a lot of my success to luck. There have definitely been moments in my life when the stars aligned and “perfect timing” made things work out incredibly well. I’m going to give thanks and count all my blessings now, thanks for the inspiration! :)

  47. I just wrote an article yesterday with a similar theme, based on some of the things you’ve said about lucky market timing making everyone think they are a genius!

    Getting into Stanford was a huge break for me. The caliber of people I surround myself with is amazing and my beliefs would be extremely different if I had average friends. Kind of like your hiring manager taking a chance, I was waitlisted and had 1 person on a panel fight for me and say why I should be one of the few people to get off the waitlist. Complete luck considering the other candidates were surely more impressive on paper.

    1. Steve Adams

      I always thought they should just flip a coin in those cases. Make the luck apparent as heck. Plus it’s probably a better decision making process.

    2. Cool. Curious though, given you left the work force early to focus on rental properties and entrepreneurship, is going to Stanford unnecessary? Did you have any grants to help pay for the cost?

      I would have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in! I’m always curious about what becomes of folks and their life mindset after attending various types of schools.

      1. Another big point of luck is coming out of college without any debt. That would have made my decision to head out on my own much much more difficult. I’d still probably be a wage slave.

        Stanford is excellent with financial aid / dropping the price through various means when it makes sense. My sisters were in college at the same time which helped too. So it wasn’t close to the $50k+ a year like the sticker price would have been. My parents lived modestly for years to pay for our college, so I’m very grateful and lucky!

        I certainly learned technical skills and earned a great piece of paper that provide an excellent backup plan. Having a pretty good “worse case” scenario of being overpaid at one of the tech companies makes taking risks easier. But I really think the value is the people who are my lifelong friends.

  48. We make our luck in many ways. Good Preparation and then the right opportunity comes up and bam- luck made. Kudos to your success man. I can think of sometimes where I have felt very lucky.

  49. The Luxe Strategist

    I believe in both and am in the 25-49% club. Examples of how I got lucky:
    -I was born to uneducated immigrant parents, but I happen to have above-average intelligence and am intrinsically motivated. Even without any books in the house or lots of parental support, I was able to move up to a different socioeconomic class. Without those two factors I had absolutely no say in, I’m not sure I would have been able to do that. Not to discount other decisions I made, and hard work, but those two were the critical path.
    -There have been times when I happened to be in the right time, in the right place, like getting temp jobs just because I submitted my resume at the right time.
    -I’m lucky that my mom is a great person who I would actually like if she weren’t my mom. Not a lot of people I know have that.

    With that said, I think in many cases luck can be a byproduct to hard work and persistence.
    -I got my foot the door in fashion with no fashion experience whatsoever. The work I did: created a blog to show I was for real, constantly following up, even if I never got a response the first time. A few months after I initially contacted this company with no luck, I saw they posted a new job. I emailed the company again and I ended up getting it. You could say I got lucky, but I could have easily given up the first time I got no response.
    -Same situation with my sister. She got her dream job by basically downright annoying the HR person.

    And if you aren’t getting “lucky” finding a mate, there are lots of things you can do to increase your chances, like, actually leaving the house and going out where other people are, trying online dating, etc.

    You should never feel like you can’t improve your situation because you weren’t born “lucky”.

    1. I like your tag-line “I save 50% of my income and buy $500 shoes” :)

      You’re so lucky to live in NYC. It’s my favorite city in the world for 6 months a year! So much going on.

      Thanks for sharing your background! Must be very exciting to work in fashion in the fashion capital of….. America, at least!

  50. PhilanthroCapitalist

    Great post, and a solid lesson. I’m glad that you picked a percentage so much higher than most.

    I’m going with 90-100%, for reasons that seem fairly obvious to me. We don’t control where we’re born. Show me someone born in America who thinks he would be just as successful if he was born as a female in Afghanistan and I’ll show you a moron.

    More than that, we don’t get to choose the things that influence us, especially in the formative years of our lives. I’m very much a hard determinist. There’s simply no evidence (yet) that anyone can make a decision that will influence their timeline.

    Think of it like this: If you’re reading a book and, on page 322, Harry Potter decides to ask out Cho Chang, did Harry really make that decision himself?

    No, of course not. JK Rowling made that decision. On page 322, Harry will ALWAYS ask out Cho Chang. Harry doesn’t influence the book’s events. He’s just a character.

    In real life, time is everyone’s author.

    At 9:28AM Pacific Time on 5/24/2017, I’ll ALWAYS be writing this comment. Just because I’m always on the current page and I can only look back and not forward — that doesn’t mean I’m writing my own book.

    If I can’t go back and change what I was doing on “page” 9:28AM Pacific Time, 5/24/2017, there’s no evidence that I’m really the author of my story.

    This theme, combined in some cases with the assumption that people are born good, is the basis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and — my personal favorite — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, among others. If anyone reads those books with this outlook, I earnestly believe they will become a more empathetic person. If the Dalai Lama is to be believed, then their compassion will make them happier.

    With all that said, because of the way your consciousness functions, you FEEL like you’re constantly receiving evidence to the contrary. In reality, there’s no scientific basis for the existence of free will (yet).

    You have to walk the line between determinism and a belief in self-efficacy, though. They appear to be antithetical, and maybe they are, but the other choice is nihilism; I associate that with cowardice.

    Instead, I think “picking a star” (i.e. choosing an ideal, almost unattainable, goal that will offset the suffering of your life) is one of the best ways to orient yourself, without much consideration as to who’s pulling the strings.

    And with infinite knowledge at our fingertips, this is the greatest time to be alive.

    “Luck” certainly doesn’t FEEL like it’s as big a factor, and maybe it isn’t. There’s always the possibility that I’m wrong about everything.

    That’s why I think it’s important to press on.

    1. Grant @ Life Prep Couple

      I always love this free will conversation. I struggled with this for awhile because like you say we don’t know for sure. There is more evidence to suggest free will does NOT exist but I came to the conclusion that it was more moral to believe it did exist.

      The reason is, people become unmotivated when told they aren’t really in control. It makes it hard to be driven to achieve if you are really just a robot playing out a script.

      You even get your motivation from the chance that free will does exist.

      “There’s always the possibility that I’m wrong about everything. That’s why I think it’s important to press on.”

      Where would your motivation come from if we could prove free will did not exist? It seems lack mass depression would set in all over the world.

      Do you think that if we roll the clock back a million years we end up right where we are now?

      Please don’t take this as me attacking you or something like that I just really do enjoy exploring this concept.

      1. PhilanthroCapitalist

        Not at all! You approached your reply with 100x more civility than I’ve come to expect on the internet. I like talking about it, too, and I actually fully agree with your first point.

        For the most part, belief in the existence of free will *does* seem to make people more moral. I recently discussed a series of studies with one of my favorite professors that showed a disbelief in free will increased aggression and selfishness:

        “Thanks for the link to the article, which I was not familiar with. More recent studies that I am familiar with have found belief in free will to be associated with greater aggression, in the form of greater desire to punish people who have committed some transgression. I suspect that the different findings have to do with how free will is conceived. If it is taken to mean that human behavior is not constrained by pre-established instincts to the same degree as animal behavior, or that humans can contemplate multiple competing courses of action and weigh their consequences, then belief in it may have different behavioral effects than if it is conceived as not having any constraints on one’s cognition or behavior that are beyond one’s control (i.e., what philosophers mean by radically free will).

        At any rate, my research group has found that increased recognition of determinism (of the sort that we discussed in class) increases sympathy and reduces punitive (or at least retributory) behavior. This increased recognition of determinism, of course, is not quite the same thing as no longer believing in free will.”

        In other words, while a complete rejection of the existence of free will *might* lead to more selfish behavior, a recognition of determinism with some belief in self-efficacy *probably* encourages pro-social behavior. In this case, it sounds like he’s talking about “soft determinism,” which is NOT what we discussed in class — but that was a little over eight months ago now and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

        Your second point: “The reason is, people become unmotivated when told they aren’t really in control. It makes it hard to be driven to achieve if you are really just a robot playing out a script.”

        Well said.

        This is definitely one of the negatives of hard determinism; that’s why I
        “choose” action over nihilism. I like to keep in mind that a lot of what we currently know about the nature of time is based on subjective experience. Time might not be linear at all; that might just be how we see it. I’m only assuming we don’t have the freedom of choice because we don’t have any proof of alternate universes, where our decisions might have changed something. And, even then, as far as I know, I only exist in this dimension.

        If I were unknowingly traveling between all of those universes with my every decision, that would change everything. That might be the case, but I have no proof.

        We’re also only a few thousand years into our formal study of natural phenomena.

        Thus I like to think that any conclusion we draw from current evidence is really an argument from ignorance (something’s true because it hasn’t yet been proven false).

        Personally, every moment FEELS like I’m making decisions of my own volition, which is simply an overwhelming amount of evidence, even if what we currently “know” about science contradicts it.

        “Do you think that if we roll the clock back a million years we end up right where we are now?”

        Yes, assuming there’s nothing new thrown into our reality’s “system.” To borrow your metaphor, the robots will act according to their script unless someone (or something) changes their programming.

        I think it IS fun to think about, though. I think that, personally, the best choice is to pretend that, if I’m a cog, I’m a very important cog (according to the values I measure my life by, anyway). It’s much less demotivating than nihilism.

        1. If you believe in determinism no belief will alter your behavior. It will be a mere correlation.
          I’d read those books you recommended but I haven’t been pre-determined to do that yet.

        2. Grant @ Life Prep Couple

          Thanks for that Reply.

          I get how you could have an increased level of empathy. You don’t demonize an alligator who attacks someone as the alligator is just being an alligator. But if choices don’t exist how could the criminal justice system exist.

          A husband who kills someone who is sleeping with his wife would probably never kill anyone again as it was a matter of extreme circumstance but he still must go to jail.

          I like to believe that most of what we do is predetermined but when we take time to become conscious of our consciousness (meta consciousness) we are able to make independent choices.

          If free will does not exist it is probably the greatest illusion in the universe.

  51. At the start of my final business management class in college the teacher got up and said, “before we get started just let me say that I wish I had learned to golf. I have missed out on so many opportunities because I never learned to play the game. If I could go back and change one thing when I was your age it would be that I had taken time to learn to play golf. Now that I have that out of the way, lets get in to this stuff we have to teach that you will likely never use.”

    1. Hah! Love it. One of my regrets was not taking MORE golf! I just took one year of it, but I could have taken 3 years of golf. It was awesome to drive out to Kiskiack golf club in Williamsburg to hit the driving range and then play a round of 18. It was SO CHEAP too! Maybe $12 a round? I forget.

      I’ve had so many business golf outings during my 13 years working in finance, it was so fun. Built a lot of great relationships spending 4-5 hours together. We’d leave work at 12 noon to warm up and make a 1pm tee time and be finished by 4:30pm.

      I haven’t played a full round in two years now I don’t think, but have been invited to play by a parent of a HS kid I coached. Gotta brush up!

  52. I’m in the minority since I said 90% of life luck.

    Like Warren Buffett always says, I won the Ovarian Lottery :)

    If I had been born a generation before there would be no internet and no forum to share and trade ideas. If I had been born in a country that restricted access to the internet, then I wouldn’t be able to type this now.

    I’m incredibly lucky to live in the US with the freedom and access to pursue just about anything that I want.

    So I consider myself incredibly lucky.

  53. Thank you for sharing this… I loved how you wrote with such incredible humility in the face of your incredible achievement. As a fellow blogger, I am feeling so inspired by what you wrote in this post, that as long as I continue to write, continue to help others, I will be successful. Thanks for sharing the stat on publishing 2-4x week for 3 years. I am going to set that as my benchmark now… Thank you so much!!

    Jessica || Cubicle Chic

      1. Thank you for the words of encouragement, Sam! I devoured so many articles on your website like a person that’s starved of good content for months. I am SO glad I stumbled upon Financial Samurai. Keep doing what you do… you are a blog hero!!


  54. For me I think luck is important. I should know since I have none leading to my broken trailer park life.

  55. Hard work is what generates the lucky opportunities in the first place. For opportunity to show itself you have to be out there making it happen.

  56. The Tepid Tamale

    I agree with you. Winning the Ovarian Lottery (credit: Warren Buffet), is a huge start for me, and I don’t remember choosing where I would be born, but I was pretty young at the time ….

    However as you have stated, and Joe echoes in his comment, you have to work hard with your good luck. It’s a tricky combination, but I think you nailed it on the head.

  57. Hi Sam,

    I am following your blog for a long time now. I think hard work and luck go hand in hand. Without working hard on your Blog you would have never gotten there where you actually are. Of course all of us can be happy about living in a first world country and yes achieving financial freedom is a first world problem :-).


  58. Hah! You wouldn’t want to work for someone who has a problem with teddy bear ties anyway :)

    We are all really lucky to just have been born in a first world country. I went from working in a cafeteria, to becoming an engineer, to retiring early. Yes I did work hard to get where I am, but it was also a combination of incredible luck and circumstances. I had the opportunity to get a job that could pay my tuition, I had the opportunity to go to a top engineering school, and I was lucky to find an incredible wife and partner. I did have to make the right decisions, but I was given pretty darn good choices.

    Great story, and congratulations on the success!

    1. Jack Catchem

      Are we really that lucky to have been born into a first world country or is that just our prejudices talking?

      I remember a fascinating conversation I had with a man born & raised in Afghanistan, became an America citizen, and returned with my unit to Afghanistan as an interpreter. I asked him about the difference between living in the two and he said: ” I love Afghanistan. I don’t have to do anything and can be with those I love all day. America you can have ANYTHING you want…but you have to word so D— hard to get it!”

      Is it luck to be born onto a treadmill?

  59. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    I’ve definitely had some good luck:

    1) I was born to upper-middle class parents who were frugal and live in the US.
    2) I got interested in computers and programming just as PCs took off. It was sheer luck that I stumbled into a lucrative career.
    3) I took a personal finance course in High School because it was supposed to be easy. It turned out to be one of the most useful course I ever had.
    4) I married a frugal wife when I wasn’t even looking for a frugal wife.

    I always feel grateful when I think about the luck I’ve had. Feels good!

  60. I got lucky getting into one of the better MBA programs in NC. My undergrad GPA and GMAT were both below the average. I was lucky by meeting the right people during a casual visit to the campus and we had a great conversation.

  61. I’m in the majority. 50%-69%. You had a lot of luck, but you made a lot of that happen too. Blogging for instance, how many people can keep up with 3x per week of great quality posts? Not many. A lot of people burn out or just can’t keep the quality consistent. I know I haven’t been able to do it. That’s hard work.
    I’m sure if these lucky breaks didn’t happen, then there would have been other lucky things.
    For me, marrying my wife was good luck. Starting a blog in 2010 was good too. It seems so much more difficult now for new bloggers.

    1. For the first 5 years, I wondered why don’t people just keep on writing 3X a week. Now in my last five years I understand why. So maybe we all have different levels of grit that may be genetic. And given it’s genetic, it’s luck!

      I’ve got two more years to go until I reach my 10 year goal of writing 3X a week. I am determined to not fail b/c I’m 80% of the way there! But after 10 years, I will most certainly reduce output to probably 2X a week.

  62. Hey Sam,

    Your article reminds me of the law averages, where if you keep trying, you eventually have to get lucky. I remember watching a youtube video about a sales person where he said that roughly 5% of prospects are easy sales, 15% are medium sales (sales that only a skilled sales person can get) and 80% are people you don’t have a chance with. The issue is that you never know how many sales you will get an a particular day, but as long as you keep approaching people it will normalize to the above rates.

    Is it possible to indirectly influence your luck by giving yourself more opportunity to get lucky? For example, like meeting many different women in college in hopes of potentially finding your partner and applying to many different jobs in the hopes you get the right one.

    Thank you for the read as it gave me some motivation to try a bit harder today!


    1. Most likely. Gotta just keep putting yourself in situations to get lucky. It’s a numbers game. No matter if the conversion percent is just 1%, if you talk to 100 people, you will get one.

  63. Luck should never be underestimated. Accept that it exists, and do everything you can to increase the number of opportunities for good luck to “hit” you. That typically means hard work and perseverance, but it also means making sure that your efforts are in an area where – if luck DOES strike you – it’ll pay off bigger. Luck is everywhere, go find the zones where it strikes with high ROI – and spend as much time in those zones as possible.

    i.e. working hard at playing video games in your basement? probably not gonna have high ROI when luck strikes. “hey, what a lucky play I just made! I won that game!” – ok, great. so what?

    Instead – work hard at something that has higher potential ROI if luck DOES strike – and operate in that strike zone as long and as frequently as possible. Increase your odds of getting “hit”. :)

    1. Jeff Anzalone DDS

      I’m glad I listened to Rocky’s quote to his son BEFORE I had a job with 2 docs pulled out from under me, two weeks prior to graduation, with wife, 2 month old, $250K student loan debt…and oh yeah, BTW, failed to mention that Interest-only mortgage $185K. Add all that to NO job, didn’t have a clue to start a practice, makes you think the world is NOT to nice.

      Rocky told his son: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you worth, go out and get what you worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying: You ain´t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that aint you! You´re better than that!!
      – Rocky Balboa

      Or if you want the video clip:

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