Reality Check: You can’t be anything you want to be!


So you want to be an astronaut? Um. Well…

Telling people that they can do anything, whether fueled by imagination or hard work, conceals the critical role of genetics, environment, education, culture, timing and chance in success. Not every everyone who wants to be a neurosurgeon, a sports star or head of state can become one. Dedication and hard work alone will never make it happen.

Success = Talent + Luck.

Great success = A little more talent + A Lot more Luck.

While skill and hard work are a key part of success, chance plays a predominant role. Genetics, environment, education, culture and timing are other essential elements. This can be a bitter pill for those who want to believe that we control our own destiny. Throughout history, it has been demonstrated that all highly successful people were the person with the right stuff, living at the right moment and in the right place. For most of them, it is not to say that they did not work hard or deserve it but none where innately special. Timing and circumstances, opportunities, their environment, the people they knew, their origins is what made them special.

What would have been Moses without a people in need to be saved? What would be Donald Trump without a nation that is full of resentment? When promoting the idea that success is primarily determined by variables within one, we are ignoring the overriding influence of luck and synchronicity in one’s success or achievement. Conversely, those who do achieve prominent success often overestimate their role in it, and have a tendency to see those who have more average resumes as inferior or less deserving. Ignoring the role of chance means that we overvalue the achievements of individual icons and also miss opportunities to use our collective institutions to alleviate inequities.

It is a statistical fact that not everyone can grow up to be a Supreme Court justice, a successful political leader or a best-selling author. Many forces beyond our personal control, forces such as synchronicity, genetics, and other accidents of birth are shaping our individual futures and successes.


JMD is an enthusiastic writer, columnist and social activist who most enjoys evolving in complex interactive situations.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s