Luck or Hard Work?
Tu Youyou was not fabulously lucky. My favorite fact about her is that she has no postgraduate degree, no research experience abroad, and no membership in any of the Chinese national academies—a feat that has earned her the nickname “The Professor of the Three No’s”.
But damn was she a hard worker. Persistent. Diligent. Driven. For decades she didn’t give up and she helped save millions of lives as a result. Her story is a brilliant example of how important hard work can be in achieving success.
Just a minute ago, it seemed reasonable that the Ovarian Lottery determined most of your success in life, but the idea that hard work matters feels just as reasonable. When you work hard you typically get better results than you would with less effort. While we can’t deny the importance of luck, everyone seems to have this sense that hard work really does make a difference.
So what it is? What determines success? Hard work or good fortune? Effort or randomness? I think we all understand both factors play a role, but I’d like to give you a better answer than “It depends.”
Here are two ways I look at the issue.