Skill vs. Luck vs. Hard Work


Hard work is often talked about as a be-all end-all when it comes to performance, and even personhood. On this episode of The Growth Equation podcast, we explore what hard work can (and can’t do), what pursuits are more prone to be impacted by hard work, and the difference between hard work making you as good as you can be versus making you better than others. We also look at the history of hard work as a moral concept, and offer some thoughts on why it might be misguided.

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  • Overall i thought this was a really good a thought provoking article. The way i would summarise it is that there is a price of entry in terms of hard work to get to an elite table, but once you have met that then the value of additional work and practice can quickly diminish and other factors out weight it. Not to say you shouldn’t work harder if you can but not at the expense of other factors on performance, recovery, happiness, health, strategy etc. Also it is important to be humble and accept that luck and the genetic lottery pay a big part in any success you have.

    Is there a reference for the research quoted about the benefits of deliberate practice cited in this episode. It seems the conclusions would be very specific to exact definition and how they measure it. I would be hesitant drawing too much from one study, especially without really drawing out what they are actually measuring and have they sufficiently controlled for other factors.

  • John Sheridan

    Can I just say that I usually really appreciate your podcast but this one was way off base. Hard Work does not equate to Deliberate Practice. You use a straw man argument and in that process seriously attack the outstanding and peer-reviewed research initiated by Anders Ericsson. This is particularly difficult to accept, given his relatively recent death. I also find it jarring given that the process of setting goals and working towards them with a coach or mentor, who provides feedback, seems to be entirely consistent with your own employment and approach as articulated in your books, a number of which I have. I have no desire to support arguments that hard work on its own is enough to succeed but you strayed some considerable way from such an argument.

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