[FoRK] [FoSDW] The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Oct 31 11:19:45 PDT 2011

On 10/31/11 10:43 AM, Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
> Outsiders attribute super-wealth to luck.  Those who achieve it attribute it to hard work.   They did a similar study in '07 that 
> separates it out by sex too.
> http://members.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0226/038.html
> "The 1995–97 survey asked people whether they attributed success in life to luck and connections or to hard work. We found a 
> significant gender perceptions gap that gets wider the higher you look in the professional hierarchy. Twelve percent more working 
> men than women think it is hard work, rather than luck, that determines success. When you look at men and women who hold 
> supervisory roles, 30% more men than women believe it’s hard work that determines success. Remarkably, the gap between men’s and 
> women’s opinions remains consistent across countries: It is as strong in Sweden as in Argentina. Our work also finds that women 
> are more likely to believe that too much competition is harmful, and, in the post-Enron era, I have a feeling that I’m not alone 
> in believing that a more balanced view of competition might not be so bad."

Seems easily explainable:
The reality is that all success (worth talking about) is a combination of some degree of luck and hard work.  If you're asked to 
attribute success to luck/connections or hard work, you're going to weight your response based on what you think was different from 
the baseline / average.  Women, for instance, may generally feel that all women work hard so it was their luck in getting breaks 
that women statistically didn't get that stood out to them.  For men, where opportunities are more frequent and apparent, it is the 
work needed to compete to consistently take advantage of those opportunities that may stand out more.  "Chance favors the prepared 
'person'." is reality, whether people notice or not: There are always many possible opportunities.  The trick is to A) notice them, 
B) decide to pursue the best, C) out compete others.  How you go about A and B could either be by luck (an adviser pushed you into 
something) or hard work (you work hard to be aware, understand widely, etc.).  An event that appears to happen rarely seems like 
luck, while noticing events happening frequently seems like noise or otherwise normal.

Super-wealth can be different from success or even simple wealth, but often it is about lots of hard work.  The problem is that in a 
number of cases, it's not possible to have actually earned access to certain positions.  With inheritance this is obvious.  In a 
number of top corporate positions, it's hard to rationalize the numbers.  If the president of the US were valued in a similar way, 
we'd be paying each one n*Billion$.

> Differences due to merit, when they are perceived as such, generate far
> more animosity than differences due to luck.  Luck can be forgiven.
> Superior performance, often not.

Only the immature have animosity about actual merit.  Simple angst about failing to come out on top while competing isn't the same.  
A healthy person already has a feedback loop in place to use that to self-improve.  Real animosity should be reserved for unfair or 
false merit.  One common type of that is analogous to anti-trust unfair tying: Using success attained in one thing to erroneously 
gain top status in another.  Usually this is self correcting: The software mogul blows his money on electric cars and space ships.  
(Except that's working!)  In other cases, it can be bad.

Seems to me that luck often generates more animosity since it isn't "fair".

> Greg
> On 10/31/2011 10:33 AM, geege schuman wrote:
>> http://www.xent.com/pipermail/fork/2002-September/014863.html
>> Geege

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