Success – luck vs hard work?

Every day we are talking with business owners and operators who are striving to optimise their business success – however you define success (which is often the starting point of any conversation we have with clients). They each operate within a unique set of attributes including their skills, personality, resources, market share, number of employees, industry and location, to name a few. Consequently, there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula for success.

Indeed, the concept of a formula implies we have absolute control over all the variables. Any farmer, banker, real estate agent or tourism operator will tell you this is simply not true. Luck has a huge role to play.

Let us introduce you to the Success Framework:


In 1997 Warren Buffet, investor billionaire proposed a thought experiment to make a point about luck. In his experiment he asked readers to design their own rules of society with one catch. They would enter this society as a new born and would have no control over whether they were born rich or poor, male or female, infirm or able-bodied, in the United States or Afghanistan. In other words, even in a society of our own design, luck governs a factor that influences success – your starting point in life. If you got lucky, you would start in the same position as Business X. If you got unlucky, you would start in the same position as Business Y.

But what about the role of hard work?

In 1969 Tu Youyou was appointed to develop antimalarial medications that could be administered to Vietnamese soldiers who were succumbing to malaria at the same rate as battle fatalities (during the Vietnamese War). She did not have a post-graduate degree, no research experience abroad and no membership to any national academies. Instead, she started Project 523 by reading manuals, old folk remedies and ancient texts before moving on to collect 600 plants for analysing. Over two years she came up with a list of 2000 possible remedies and methodically started testing them, one by one on lab mice. One plant seemed promising but delivered inconsistent results. So she started all over again, re-reading every text and book. One day she stumbled across a sentence that appeared to shed light on the problem she was encountering. Heat was the issue. The extraction process needed to be performed at specific temperatures so as not to destroy the active ingredient. She went on to test the medication on herself due to a lack of drug trial centres. Nine years later, and after the Vietnamese war had ended, Tu finally had a proven defence against malaria that has since been administered over 1 billion times to malaria patients, saving millions of lives. Tu went on to receive the Nobel Prize and Lasker Award for major contributions to medical science. Success –from a less than ideal starting point!!!

In business, there are many variables such as the global economy, timing, health and climate that can positively or negatively impact your efforts. However, the variables that you can control such as leveraging technology to work smarter, being clear on the direction of your business and implementing strategies to mitigate risk and maximize successful outcomes can overcome bad luck or a poor starting point and set you up for long-term success.

Are you relying on luck or hard work?

“There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits”.



James Clear; “Absolute Success is Luck. Relative Success is Hard Work.”