Is It Better To Lucky Or Good?

“Almost all millionaires are hardworking, but every billionaire is lucky.” Nick Maggiulli.

It is easy enough to nod your head and say, Of course.” but if you do, you will miss an important fact.

Not all hardworking people become millionaires. 

If they did, every adult woman in Africa would be a millionaire, every business owner, every single parent with two jobs to make ends meet. Hard work is not the only factor in achieving financial independence or great wealth. Poor decisions and random chance are both factors. Each of us has an element of luck in our lives. Some of it is good, and some of it is bad.

Think about how, in North America, we are lucky to be born here, to be healthy, to have access to education, and to have choices about work and living our lives. Then think about how unlucky works. Born in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s a significant blemish on leading a financially fulfilled life. Born disabled. A near-certain impediment. That is not to say life cannot be fulfilling; it can be in other ways. Circumstances, though, make everything harder and achieving wealth is situational to a large extent.

Where planning fits

“All financial success comes from acting on a plan. A lot of financial failure comes from reacting to the market” Nick Murray.

Planning is the organizing task. It allows you to see and understand problems and opportunities and gives insight into assessing and applying resources. It has a simple failing, though. It can become internalized. Only things that fit the resource set are considered possible.

That’s where luck comes in.

Luck involves putting yourself in places where good things can happen, even if they are outside your resource set. It seems riskier because you cannot see how you can do it with your resources. In the beginning, if you had asked Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Bill Gates how they would finance the immense growth of their businesses, you would have gotten an answer, but it would have been essentially, “We’ll worry about that when we get there.” They were each too busy building a revolutionary and valuable product for people. They assumed it would work out if the product was good enough. They were right, but many others were not.

In some cases, the founders of successful companies tried to sell their business early in the development. These include Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, Sergei Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, and Bill Gates. One of their lucky breaks was their offers were refused.

You can see luck if you read biographies of entrepreneurs. For example, in “Shoe Dog,” the story of Nike shows what a close thing success really is.

How to be lucky

Much of luck involves the process of putting yourself in places where luck can be found. Choose a career with potential. Choose a business that could grow. Avoid the known and mundane. The right place and time are characteristics of luck, but they are only visible after the fact. There is no easy way to be lucky because luck has not yet been attached to a particular set of variables.

It is not like deciding to be struck by lightning. If you wanted that, walking on a flat golf course during a thunderstorm with a 2-iron held aloft should provide the variables. A 1-iron would not work because even God can’t hit a 1-iron. There is no similar set of variables to start Amazon.

If you want to study luck a little deeper, I think you will get something from this article.

IT’S SMARTER TO BE LUCKY THAN IT’S LUCKY TO BE SMART

In the article, you will find the four kinds of luck, and you can see connections from those to Marc Andreesen’s blogs on point.

The bits to takeaway

Luck is more than””Random chance operating in our favour”” as Mr. Spock would assess. Luck involves putting yourself in places and situations where it is more likely to happen and avoiding situations where catastrophic outcomes are possible.

Legendary movie producer Sam Goldwyn offered this option.””The harder I work, the luckier I get.”


I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don.shaughnessy@gmail.com.

2 Comments on “Is It Better To Lucky Or Good?

  1. Interesting concept. Not sure that “luck” deserves all the credit.

    Somehow we need to factor in “chance” and “blessed.” To combat the crippling narcissism that so often follows to concept of success.

    We also need to be a bit more stringent, in our acceptance of the opinions of those who pontificate the recognition of success with such finality.

    We also need to keep in mind that “success is seldom permanent, and failure is seldom fatal.”

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