Success and Luck Book Summary - Success and Luck Book explained in key points
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Success and Luck summary

Robert H. Frank

Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy

3.5 (159 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank challenges the notion of individual merit and emphasizes the role of luck in success. It examines the social and economic factors that contribute to success and provides alternative approaches for cultivating better outcomes.

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    Success and Luck
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    Key idea 1 of 7

    Luck plays a greater role in economic success than we acknowledge.

    November, 2007. The author, Robert Frank, is locked in a fierce but friendly tennis match with a colleague. The two players volley back and forth when disaster strikes. Frank falls to the court in a state of acute cardiac arrest.

    On a normal day, it would take an ambulance several minutes to arrive at the scene – far too late to offer medical help. But, on this day, one happened to be just around the corner. It was pure luck, and that luck saved Frank’s life.

    Of course, these strokes of fortune happen all the time, for both good and ill. Freak accidents, happy coincidences, and other twists of fate shape our lives at every turn. Importantly, they also shape our economic outcomes.

    The key message is: Luck plays a greater role in economic success than we acknowledge.

    There’s an enduring myth in our society that those who achieve great economic success do so through hard work, dedication, and great ideas. This is meritocracy and it says that those who rise to the top deserve their position, power, and prestige. Meanwhile, those at the bottom also deserve their status because they didn’t try hard enough.

    But, there’s a problem with this logic. Sure, successful people usually work hard for their riches, but consider this: for every successful person there are thousands more who are just as talented and ambitious, yet never achieve great fortune. Why? Well, partly, it’s pure chance. At some point, the prosperous person got a lucky break and that helped their merit flourish into rewards.

    This luck can come in many forms. For instance, the circumstances you’re born into are completely down to chance, but have a huge impact on your trajectory in life. A person born to wealthy parents in a developed country has a much easier time gaining money and status than an equally talented person born into harder conditions. Even talent itself is down to luck – some people are born with it, while others are given more opportunities to develop it. Either way, if you have it, you’re lucky.

    Why is this important? 

    In our winner-takes-all society, those with resources tend to accumulate more and more while everyone else loses out. If we keep up the myth of meritocracy then the rewards will just keep going to a lucky few at the expense of everyone else. 

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    What is Success and Luck about?

    Success and Luck (2016) presents an unconventional look at the role chance plays in our economy. This manifesto argues that a little luck matters a lot more than we think and that ignoring this reality is what keeps us from thriving.

    Success and Luck Review

    Success and Luck (2016) explores the role of luck in achieving success and provides valuable insights on how to navigate this relationship. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding success and convincingly argues that luck plays a significant role in our achievements.
    • The book offers fascinating anecdotes and examples from various fields, helping readers understand the interplay between luck, talent, and effort.
    • Through its thought-provoking analysis, it reshapes our understanding of success and provides practical strategies to make the most of both luck and skill.

    Who should read Success and Luck?

    • (Aspiring) business leaders
    • Government officials
    • People interested in the irrationality of human behavior

    About the Author

    Robert Frank is a world-renowned economist and the Goldwin Smith Professor of Economics at Cornell University. He regularly writes the “Economic View” column for the New York Times and has authored many books including The Economic Naturalist, The Winner-Take-All Society, and Under the Influence.

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    Success and Luck FAQs 

    What is the main message of Success and Luck?

    The main message of Success and Luck is that luck plays a significant role in achieving success, contrary to popular belief.

    How long does it take to read Success and Luck?

    The reading time for Success and Luck varies, but it typically takes several hours to read. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Success and Luck a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Success and Luck is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into the role of luck in success, challenging our conventional understanding.

    Who is the author of Success and Luck?

    The author of Success and Luck is Robert H. Frank.

    What to read after Success and Luck?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Success and Luck, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Can You Learn to be Lucky? by Karla Starr
    • Happy Accidents by Morton A. Meyers
    • The Serendipity Mindset by Christian Busch
    • Moore’s Law by Arnold Thackray
    • One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer
    • So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport
    • The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
    • The Intelligence Trap by David Robson
    • Think Again by Adam Grant