This article seems to echo a point Malcolm Gladwell made in Outliers. Using Bill Gates as an example (as did Outliers) the article shows that the key to Gates’s ascendancy was his voracious work ethic, and not merely fortunately circumstances.
Mr. Gates may have been a math and computer whiz kid at a top college that had computers in 1975, but he wasn’t the only math and computer whiz kid at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, M.I.T., Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, U.C.L.A., the University of Chicago, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Dartmouth, Southern Cal, Columbia, Northwestern, Penn, Michigan or any number of other top colleges with comparable or even better computer resources.
Mr. Gates wasn’t the only person who knew how to program in Basic; the language was developed a decade earlier by Dartmouth professors, and it was widely known by 1975, used in academics and industry. And what about all the master’s and Ph.D. students in electrical engineering and computer science who had even more computer expertise than Mr. Gates on the day the Popular Electronics article appeared? Any could have decided to abandon their studies and start a personal computer software company. And computer experts already working in industry and academia could have done the same.
But how many of them changed their life plans — and cut their sleep to near zero, essentially inhaling food so as not to let eating interfere with work — to throw themselves into writing Basic for the Altair? How many defied their parents, dropped out of college and moved to Albuquerque to work with the Altair? How many had Basic for the Altair written, debugged and ready to ship before anyone else?
Thousands of people could have done the same thing that Mr. Gates did, at the same time. But they didn’t.
The difference between Mr. Gates and similarly advantaged people is not luck. Mr. Gates went further, taking a confluence of lucky circumstances and creating a huge return on his luck. And this is the important difference.
Luck, good and bad, happens to everyone, whether we like it or not. But when we look at the 10Xers, we see people like Mr. Gates who recognize luck and seize it, leaders who grab luck events and make much more of them.
This ability to achieve a high ROL at pivotal moments has a huge multiplicative effect for 10Xers. They zoom out to recognize when a luck event has happened and to consider whether they should let it disrupt their plans. Imagine if Mr. Gates had said to Paul Allen after seeing the Popular Electronics article: “Well, Paul, I’m kind of focused on my studies here at Harvard right now. Let’s wait a few years, and then I’ll be ready to start.”
I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work creating the opportunities that allow me to recognize even better opportunities. One of the things that kills me about my present employment–and I love my job–is I am so limited with my free time. Once my full time job becomes my full time job, watch out.