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Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. I don’t know him personally and until 2016 I had no idea who he was, but that’s the year I read an article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Luck Matters More Than You Think.” It was intriguing me, but honestly, there wasn’t anything new about my intrigue. The subject of luck has fascinated me for a long time.
Some people don’t believe in luck. Or serendipity. Or chance. Especially when it comes to success or achievement.
By “late-life” I don’t necessarily mean age, but it might include that. Most certainly it includes experience.
A person begins to learn something at an early age. Take a current professional ice hockey player. His parents put him in ice skates for the first time when he was 3. Since then he’s spent almost as much time in ice skates as he has sneakers. By the time he’s approaching 14, he’s a decade into the learning curve. Off he goes to play major junior hockey – a high level of play for boys approaching high school. He moves to another town where the team is located and he begins to play the highest level of amateur hockey while living with a host family who has taken him in. Before his 18th birthday, he’s drafted by an NHL team. He’s 15 years into the learning process, but he’s only 18.
A person matures past middle-age. She’s spent her entire life pursuing art. As a young girl, she fell in love with painting and she’s been at it ever since. It’s never earned her much of a living. Until now. A while back she had a little showing at a local gallery. A blogger with a widely read blog happened to live in the area and visited the exhibition. And wrote a piece about this woman’s artwork, along with posting some pictures of her work. About a hundred miles away, in a big city, an art gallery owner saw the blog post about this now older woman’s showing. An email was sent and now after 4 decades of painting artwork in relative obscurity, she’s achieving late-life luck. She’s experienced at art and life.
There are many flipside stories that counterbalance these. Stories of people who began early and never found any success. People who persisted for decades and never found any luck.
Let’s talk more about it.