Is Success Luck or Hard Work?

All of life ultimately comes down to luck.

From time to time I find myself saying “Life just unfolds.” I’m suggesting that becoming attached to appearances is a mistake. When we become attached, we invariably try to control, and when we try to control we lose The Way.

No one can predict how their life will unfold. The complexity is overwhelming. So we fall back on making guesses and predictions based on past experiences of one kind or another. We do the best we can in the moment and that’s just how it seems to be.

Most people have a strong sense that they are the independent authors of their actions. This strong sense is illusory. Perhaps evolution consed it up out of spare parts and wired it into us because it conferred an evolutionary advantage of one kind or another. Anthony Cashmore has a paper (PDF) that suggests something along these lines.

Suggesting that free will is an illusion often causes people to raise objections.

A fairly common one goes something like this: “Well, if I have no free will, should I just sit on the couch all day, waiting to see how my life turns out?”

You could try to do that. Yet eventually you will get up off the couch and go back to living your life. What people often seem to overlook is how deeply and intimately we are connected to all of … this, and by this, I mean what Alan Watts called “The Colossal Reality.”

You and I cannot get outside of existence. We think of ourselves as separate beings. Yet, if I look for the place where I end and someone or something else begins, I can never find it. Buddhism and other ancient Indian religions often talk about the concept of “No Self.” I subscribe to it. And at times, I wince when language requires that I use pronouns like I, we, me, him, her. (See what happened in that last sentence? That’s what I’m talking about.)

Success definitely requires hard work. Sadly, though, it’s just not up to you whether you will or will not be able to put in the hours. You either have the factors that allow you to work hard or you do not. If you lack them, you may get them in the future. If you have them now, you may lose them in the future.

Every moment of every day, you’re a different person. As Heraclitus said, you cannot step in the same river twice. We are also never the same person twice.

In closing, here is a video that seems helpful in laying out the basic issues:

Author: John Sambrook

I am a grandfather, software engineer, and a change agent. I live in Kirkland, Washington, USA.

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