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  • During the COVID lockdown, this headline went viral:

  • "Nearly half of men say they do most of the homeschooling...

  • ...three percent of women agree."

  • I bring this up not to debate who's right, but because it's a great example of something called egocentric bias:

  • Most people think they do most of the work.

  • For example, researchers have asked authors of multi-author papers

  • what percentage of the work they personally did,

  • and when they add up those percentages, the sum is on average

  • 140 percent.

  • When couples are asked to estimate how much of the housework they do,

  • the combined total is almost always over 100%.

  • Now you might think this is because people want to appear more helpful than they actually are,

  • but that's not it.

  • When couples are asked what fraction of the fights they start or how much of the mess is theirs,

  • the total is again over a hundred. People think they do more of the work,

  • but they also think they cause more of the problems. So why is this?

  • I think it's simply because you experience and remember vividly all of what you do,

  • but not all of what everyone else does,

  • so naturally you overestimate your own contributions and underestimate others.

  • And I think this bias leads us to underestimate the influence of other things on our lives

  • like the role luck plays in our success.

  • Take hockey players, for example.

  • If you ask a professional hockey player how they managed to reach the NHL,

  • they might mention their hard work, determination, great coaches, their parents willingness to get up at 5 AM, and so on,

  • but they probably won't acknowledge how lucky they were to be born in January. And yet, in many years 40%

  • of hockey players selected into top tier leagues are born in the first quarter of the year, compared to just 10%

  • in the fourth quarter; an early birthday can make you up to four times as likely to be a pro hockey player.

  • And the reason for this disparity is presumably because the cutoff date for kids hockey leagues is January 1st.

  • Those born in the first part of the year are a little older and so on average bigger and faster than kids in their league born late in the year.

  • Now as they grow up, this difference should eventually shrink to nothing, but it doesn't.

  • Because the young kids who share the most promise are given more time on the ice and enter more tournaments, where they receive better coaching

  • and improve their skills. And these advantages compound year after year,

  • so by the time you get to the pros, birthdays are heavily skewed towards the start of the year.

  • But does any professional hockey player feel thankful for their birthday?

  • Probably not. And we are all like that, largely oblivious to the fortunate events that support our success.

  • Probably the most significant bit of luck many of us enjoy is being born into a prosperous country;

  • around half the variance in income received by people around the world is explained by their country of residence

  • and that country's income distribution.

  • If you were born in Burundi, for example, which has the world's lowest gross national income per capita of just 730 dollars a year,

  • it doesn't matter how smart or hard-working you are; you're unlikely to earn much as an adult.

  • Now many people get offended if you point out how big a role chance plays in their success

  • and I get it. If we are just a product of our circumstances,

  • then our hard work and our talent seem to count for nothing.

  • People think it has to be either skill or luck that explains success, but the truth is you need both.

  • Take these eight track and field world records: all the athletes who achieve these records are obviously

  • world class, extremely dedicated, and talented and yet, when they achieved their world records, seven out of eight had a tailwind.

  • Now these athletes all had the ability to win a gold medal, but to set the world record required a bit of luck as well.

  • The importance of luck increases the greater the number of applicants applying for just a few spaces.

  • Consider the most recent class of NASA astronauts.

  • From over 18,300 applicants in 2017,

  • only 11 were selected and went on to graduate from the astronaut training program.

  • Now we can make a toy model of the selection process.

  • Let's assume that astronauts are selected mostly based on skill,

  • experience, and hard work, but also say five percent as a result of luckfortunate circumstances.

  • For each applicant, I randomly generated a skill score out of a hundred,

  • and I also randomly generated a luck score out of a hundred.

  • Then I added those numbers together, weighted in the 95-to-5 ratio to get an overall score.

  • This score represents the selector's judgments, meaning the top 11 by this metric would become astronauts.

  • And I repeated this simulation a thousand times representing a thousand different astronaut selections.

  • And what I found was the astronauts who were picked were very lucky; they had an average luck score of 94.7.

  • So how many of the selected astronauts would have been in the top 11 based on skill alone?

  • The answer was, on average, only 1.6.

  • That means, even with luck accounting for just 5% of the outcome, 9 or maybe 10 of the 11 applicants selected

  • would have been different if luck played no role at all.

  • When competition is fierce, being talented and hard-working is important, but it's not enough to guarantee success.

  • You also need to catch a break.

  • Largely, I think we're unaware of our good luck because, by definition, it's not something we did.

  • Like the housework done by your significant other, it goes unappreciated.

  • And here's the crazy thing:

  • Downplaying the importance of chance events may actually improve your probability of success because

  • if you perceive an outcome to be uncertain, you're less likely to invest effort in it, which further decreases your chances of success.

  • So, it's a useful delusion to believe you are in full control of your destiny.

  • I mean, if I had known how bad I was when I started YouTube or how much work it would take, I might have given up right then.

  • "Welcome to Veritasium:

  • an online science video blog."

  • Now there may be another benefit to overlooking your lucky breaks,

  • which is it makes it easier to justify your place in society:

  • if you have a lot of wealth or power, you can just chalk it up to your own intelligence, effort, and perseverance.

  • It makes it easier to accept inequality.

  • In one experiment, participants were put in groups of three in small rooms to discuss a complex moral problem,

  • and one person in each group was randomly designated the team leader.

  • Half an hour later, the experimenter came by with four cookies for each team.

  • So who got the extra cookie? In each case, it went to the team leader. Even though they had no special aptitude,

  • they didn't have extra responsibilities and they'd gotten their position through chance alone.

  • Once you have achieved a certain status,

  • it seems natural to feel like you deserve it and all the other good things that come your way.

  • Now this is just an anecdote,

  • but whenever I've been upgraded to fly a business class, I've always observed the worst behavior in my fellow privileged passengers;

  • they just act so entitled and uncourteous. And research has found evidence for this as well.

  • In another experiment, participants were asked to think of a good thing that happened to them recently,

  • and then one group was asked to list their own personal qualities or actions that made that good thing happen,

  • another group was asked to list external factors beyond their control that led to the event,

  • and a control group was simply asked to list reasons why the good thing happened.

  • Now for completing this task, participants were told they would be paid a dollar,

  • but at the end they were offered the option to donate some or all of the money to a charity.

  • Results showed those who listed their own personal attributes contributed 25% less

  • than those who listed external factors beyond their control.

  • Now think of what all this means for people in our society,

  • specifically for people in positions of power like business leaders and politicians.

  • Now undoubtedly most of them are talented and hard-working,

  • but they have also been luckier than most, and like most of us, they don't realize just how lucky they are.

  • And this gives them a distorted view of reality.

  • They're kind of living in a form of survivor bias: all these leaders have worked hard and ultimately succeeded,

  • so to them the world appears fair.

  • In their experience, it rewards hard work,

  • but what they don't have is the experience of all the people who have worked hard and failed.

  • So what are they to make of people less successful than themselves?

  • Well, the natural conclusion is that they must just be less talented or less hard-working,

  • and this perspective makes them less inclined to be generousto give back.

  • And they are the ones who set the rules for how society operates.

  • And this is particularly unfortunate since one of the main ways many of us are lucky is in our country of residence.

  • But what is a country except for the things put there by people who came before?

  • The roads and the schools, public transport, emergency services, clean air and water, everything like that.

  • It seems a cruel trick of our psychology that successful people without any malice will credit their success largely to their own hard work and ingenuity,

  • and therefore contribute less to maintaining the very

  • circumstances that made that success possible in the first place.

  • The good news is that acknowledging our fortunate circumstances not only brings us more in line with reality,

  • it also makes us more likeable.

  • In a study where people had to read the transcript of a fictional 60-minutes interview with a biotech entrepreneur,

  • experimenters tried changing just the last paragraph where the interviewee is talking about the reasons for their company's success.

  • In one version, the entrepreneur personally takes credit for the success they've had,

  • but in the other, he says luck played a significant role.

  • Now people who read the luck version of the transcript judged the entrepreneur as kinder,

  • and thought they'd be more likely to be close friends with him than those who read the other version of the transcript.

  • And raising our awareness of fortunate events can also make us happier because it allows us to feel gratitude.

  • Personally, I am grateful to Michael Stevens of Vsauce,

  • who on October 7th, 2012, posted the video: "How Much Does a Shadow Weigh?",

  • which shouts out my slow-motion slinky drop video,

  • and within three days my subscribers had increased by a third, and within a month,

  • they had doubled, leading me to quit my part-time job and work exclusively on YouTube videos.

  • And I'm grateful to the writer of the free newspaper

  • they give out on the trains in Sydney who didn't quite understand electricity,

  • leading me to post this picture of their article to my Instagram with the caption: "What's wrong with this picture?"

  • And I'm lucky that the first person to answer correctly was a beautiful woman who became my future wife.

  • Yep!

  • That is how I met your mother.

  • Now initially, I wanted to make this video just to say our circumstances and psychology conspire to make us oblivious to our own luck.

  • This leads successful people to view the world as fair,

  • and those less successful than them as less talented or less hard-working.

  • And this is before you factor in any discrimination or prejudice.

  • But, it also became apparent to me that I should talk about what to do if you want to be successful in such a world,

  • and I think the best advice is paradoxical.

  • First, you must believe that you are in complete control of your destiny,

  • and that your success comes down only to your own talent and hard work.

  • But second, you've got to know that's not true for you or anyone else.

  • So you have to remember: if you do achieve success that luck played a significant role and given your good fortune,

  • you should do what you can to increase the luck of others.

  • Hey, so I had an idea for what I could do to increase the luck of others and that is to give away a hundred

  • snatoms kits to people who couldn't otherwise afford them.

  • So, if you didn't know snatoms is a product that I invented and kick-started five years ago.

  • It's a molecular modeling kit where all the atoms snap together magnetically.

  • Now, I made it because I really wanted to tackle the misconception that bonds store energy.

  • They don't. It takes energy to break them, and you can feel that with snatoms.

  • Recently, I completely retooled snatums. So there are small holes where the magnets are

  • This allows them to touch directly, increasing the bonding strength, so you can form bigger more stable molecules. I call these "snatomsX".

  • And yes, they are backwards compatible with original snatoms. So, here's my idea:

  • for the next month you can buy snatoms for 10% off using the code "giveluck"

  • and for each one sold, I will give a kit to someone who can't afford one, up to a limit of a hundred.

  • So, I'll put links and more details in the description, and I really want to thank you

  • for watching, and thank you for all my good luck.

During the COVID lockdown, this headline went viral:

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B1 US success hard work hockey hard working selected lucky

Is Success Luck or Hard Work?

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    Rocky posted on 2021/02/01
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