Luck v. Hard Work

Does everyone tell you you’re lucky because you’re able to make a successful living as a freelance writer? Are constantly reminded of your “luck” because you’re able to work at home, support your family and still have some money left over for fun? Do your fellow freelance writers discuss your luck at finding high paying clients or having a kickass marketing plan?

My friend, that’s not luck. It’s your hard work paying off.

I don’t know why we write off someone else’s success as “luck,” especially when it’s clear that person put a lot of time and effort into reaching his level of achievement.

  • Luck is overnight success. Hard work is finding success after working every single day for months and years.
  • Luck is wining the lottery. Hard work is blogging eight hours each day to build up traffic, community and revenue and finally seeing rewards years later.
  • Luck is landing the first client you contact upon starting your career. Hard work is keeping that client even five years later.
  • Luck is receiving a reward from no effort on your part. Hard work is a steady buildup leading to something even more rewarding.

I think we’re inclined to say people are “lucky” when they’re more successful because it makes us feel better about not achieving the same level of success. Maybe it’s time to stop griping about other people’s “luck” and make our own.

Before you write off someone else’s good fortune as “luck” research what went into the end result. I think you’ll probably find out it wasn’t luck at all.


12 responses
  1. Carson Brackney Avatar

    In my opinion, luck is luck. You can’t make it, but you can hope for it. The good things that seem to magically appear when we make an effort aren’t luck–they’re relatively predictable outcomes.

    I think we sometimes prefer to think of others as lucky because it allows us to avoid introspection and acceptance of responsibility for our own situation. It also protects our egos when we tell ourselves that our shortcomings stem from some uncontrollable force instead of our own decisions.

    At the same time, luck is a real factor in success. One gets a big ol’ head start on achievement if they’re lucky enough to have great parents or if they’re lucky enough to have a series of related opportunities others don’t have. We don’t choose where we’re born, the quality of the schools we attend as children and a host of other factors that undoubtedly make success more or less likely.

    We can be victims of bad luck, as well. Our decisions can’t change the fact that some jerk decided it was more important to buy the iPhone upon which he was talking while driving than it was to keep his brakes in good repair. That accidental meeting at an intersection can change or end a life. We might have the bad luck to try a new restaurant on the first and only night that they’re serving up hot plates of food poisoning. Those three days spent in bed could prevent someone from attending a meeting that could’ve transformed a career for the better.

    Luck–the unpredictable collection things that happen to everyone–is a success factor. Fortunately, it’s one of many and it’s possible to mitigate the impact of bad luck with effort and determination. Even more fortunately, that same focus also allows one to maximize the opportunities good luck provides.

    In the end, though, luck is just one of many contributors to success levels. I know people who’ve experienced enough bad luck that the resemble a modern-day Job who are incredibly successful. I also know people who’ve failed to take advantage of numerous great opportunities who remain locked in struggles that never needed to happen.

    Your dealt cards. What shows up is luck. But in the long run, you win or lose based on how well you play those cards–your ability to take advantage of the good hands and to avoid big losses on the bad ones.
    .-= Carson Brackney´s last blog ..Stripping Dates in the Name of SEO and the Inevitable Triumph of Quality Writing =-.

  2. Debra (Dee) Hutcheson Avatar

    Sometimes I get the most frustrated with people who think I’m “lucky” but also think I just sit around all day doing “nothing” but writing even though I run a moderately sucessful sustainable consulting business. Simply because I work at home I must be incredibly “lucky”. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love and make an income at it but I have worked hard to get here and continue to work hard. Luck just doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with it.

  3. allena Avatar

    I’m ok with the word fortunate. I am fortunate in that I had a husband that was willing t support my early days of business build up. That wasn’t luck, nor was it hard work- I just chose a great guy. There is some “fortune” to any life, but when it comes to WORK, I totally agree with you. I am not lucky. I built this business with my own two hands.
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Successful Freelance Writing Can Be Scary =-.

    1. Liss Avatar

      Could not agree more. The idea that you got ‘lucky’ rather than you may actually have some talent says more about the person saying it than who they are saying it about. Love this post!

    2. P.S. Jones Avatar

      I also think I’m fortunate rather than lucky. Luck implies that I don’t deserve what I have and that it could happen to anyone. I have a life that I am proud of but I made it happen and I continue to make it happen every day.

    3. Deb Ng Avatar

      I use “fortunate” often. Not only work but with family and other areas of my life. Good choice.

  4. Brandi U. Avatar

    I think you definitely need a combination of both luck and hard work to be successful. The only time I don’t like hearing I’m lucky is when I just won a board game. I hardly win those so would rather be told it’s all about my skills!
    .-= Brandi U.´s last blog ..5 Secrets of Successful Sales =-.

  5. Writer's Coin Avatar

    I definitely think you have to be prepared for luck. Sometimes you might get a big break but if you’re not “ready” by being prepared for it, it won’t do anything for you. So one thing you can do is be ready at all times to receive some good luck.
    .-= Writer’s Coin´s last blog ..Did Goldman Sachs do Anything Wrong? =-.

  6. Anne Wayman Avatar

    I sort of believe in luck – but what I find is that hard work on my part seems to set me up for more good luck – that and a sense of allowing the good to come to me. Maybe you’re right Deb and it’s all hard work.

    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Improving Freelance Writing Job Performance =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      I think there are lucky aspects to our success but I can’t attribute everything to luck because that would mean everything I put into this blog wasn’t deserved and that my daily blog posts, marketing networking and everything else don’t really mean anything, I just hit some sort of Internet lottery. I don’t feel that way about my career, I’m sure you don’t feel that way about yours.

  7. Aja Avatar

    While I do believe that there are people in life that are just lucky, luck without work and skill usually won’t get you very far. I was lucky enough recently to run into the editor of a magazine that I wanted to write for, but if I hadn’t done the work in knowing what I wanted to pitch, following up etc., that lucky encounter would have ended with just that. More often than good luck, I think we are presented with good opportunities, and it takes hard work to recognize and take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves.

  8. Ty Unglebower Avatar

    I can’t agree that luck is overnight success. A person can be lucky over and over again, over the course of time, and let’s face it; we all know writers who are.

    And sad to say it, but hard work alone simply isn’t enough to make it as a writer. That’s as much of a fallacy as believing that nobody who is successful ever did any work. But people work hard for years and get nothing, it happens.

    Hard work and luck together, (luck we cannot just make, but true luck that just happens) are required to succeed. Acknowledging one doesn’t take away from the other.

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