January 15, 2024

Success: Determinism or Fatalism?

Jacques de Villiers asks the question, Is success determinism or fatalism?

Article 7/365 of Jacques’s Writing Quest

For each of us, the definition of success is different. But, for today’s mind exercise, let’s assume its career/financial success.

I read somewhere that success is a choice. To achieve anything you want, just choose success and follow certain principles. You determine your outcome.

I think that’s a flawed argument. It’s much more nuanced than that.

Let me ask you, how many of us make a commitment to succeed, have the right mindset, do what we say we’re going to do, are ‘good people’, have an amazing support structure, visualise, do affirmations, practice manifestation exercises and still haven’t achieved ‘success’?

Here’s another view. Success is based on luck or a word called ‘randomness’. Think about the usual suspects of success – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk et al. There are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the graveyard of failure that came from richer families, are better educated and had more opportunity.

Think on it, you had no choice of the parents you were born to. This was luck, God, destiny, fate … whatever you want to call it. You could have been born to a Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Black, White, Chinese, rich, poor, dysfunctional family. This very act changed the trajectory of your life. So, Gates, Branson, Buffet and Musk had a bit of luck.

Gates went to a school that had one of the first computer centres in America. If he went to an art school, there may not have been a Microsoft.

Talking about art. In his youth, Adolf Hitler wanted to become an artist. But his dreams were ruined because he failed the entrance exam of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Hitler was rejected twice by the institute, once in 1907 and again in 1908.

Imagine if Hitler became an artist, how would the world we live in today be different?

Read Outliers. The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Taleb, and you’ll get how luck plays a massive part in success.

The definition of luck according to Gladwell is where knowledge and opportunity dissect.

Luck favours the prepared.

So, keep on being the best you can be, keep on reading, keep on learning, keep on growing, keep on showing up, because one day, you might meet the person, read something or learn something, that could change the trajectory of your life.

And, I’ll leave you with the hardest question. What if you do everything right according to all the success scripts out there, and you still fail at achieving your goals? Then this exercise called life would be a disaster, wouldn’t it?

For me the trick is to not base my worth and success on my outcomes, but rather on the experiences I’ve had. Because, by God, I have failed at more things than I care to imagine. If I based my worth on those failures, I’d be in a desolate place. But, heck, all my failures and rare successes have given me the most amazing experiences. I live this life as fully as I can, and do the best I can, and that is enough for me.

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