Is Success Luck or Hard Work?

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 luck — fortunate 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 generous — to 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..

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I saw this video on Twitter, with more than 5 million views on Twitter and a million views on YouTube Just this guy modified his phone with fans to take pictures This is cool, but my only problem is that it is not only fake, but a hoax, and I will explain it But for being fake The first clue is that these are 3 volt fans that can be seen tied to a rope here And you can see that they can handle around 30g And the phone with the number of flight can reach 300 grams And since the drones are designed to remain in the air, they need at least 70% of thrust, and they need at least 15 Mattor who has this one, but that wouldn't look great In fact, we experienced the same thing he did It was used in the video and it turned the motor to the highest degree and this is what happened Here in slow motion, you can see that there is hardly any difference if you don't start the motors So I'm going to show you how this object made this video and broke the laws of physics 4 times in a 3 minute video So obedience to the laws of physics is not optional We will be calling our fellow YouTuber Captain Dilling to see if he can help us identify any indicators of special effects.

And then With my friend Peter Serbol he will show you what it will take Actually building a phone that takes a selfie flying and then I'm going to put all the details on a new set. I built it using the Wix website But before I do any of that Let me first explain why this is a scam and not just a harmless fake video of stale internet points. With this many scenes A staggering 80% like rate, which means most people probably didn't even realize it was a fake It is a statistical certainty that some young people aspire to become engineers They actually tried to build this on their own And worse, dropping their family's phones and breaking them This was probably his first experience making something. But, how would you ask Do they know what ingredients to use well? Here in the description an amazing maker who was kind enough to put amazon affiliate links You can find this out from the URLs. So he is making money from the shattered dreams of aspiring engineers without enough experience yet.

This is what he sees And aspiring engineers are my people, and don't mess with my people. Let's do it The second, unexplained violation of physics comes in this scene, the force of gravity always points down, but the heliotropic feathers create a force vertically For the blades themselves So if you want to hover, you have to be on the level so that the forces are canceled and they won't move if you tilt forward Then he broke the thrust into its x and y components Suddenly you have an unbalanced force that will move you in this direction This is how helicopters move forward by flipping forward It's physically impossible to fly in a direction like this The front-wheel drive component is unbalanced and will have to move the phone forward The third major issue is the Arduino circuit board that I choose It's the same board here and it's supposed to be the brains of a drone However, this particular model of the board doesn't come with any kind of gyroscope or accelerometer.

This is why this matters if you've ever tried it Balancing something on your hand like this you and your body are creating what is referred to as a closed-loop feedback control system. So, if it starts to pop in my eyes, take that back into my mind and my hand says "Hey." I am no longer feeding the weight up and down It pushes my hand this way so my brain is taking all that information and It responds by telling my hand to move this way at a specific speed in order to compensate. So, to keep this thing balanced there is this constant cycle of quickly gathering information and then making real-time adjustments and closed feedback.

Rings are used throughout the geometry of the simple case of which heat It constantly checks the air and operates at a certain temperature to Dart boards that refresh their position 200 times a second to get to the correct position every time To machines that have definitely been misused for anything that flies and needs to stay in the air the fact that his board is Missing gyroscope and accelerometer It means there is no way for that to know if it has started rotating or falling in any direction This is the equivalent of trying to balance a board on your hand while you are closed-eyed and wearing an oven glove You have no idea what adjustments need to be made to keep things in balance. This is perfect to talk about the fourth mistake Notice how these motors are attached and rigidly fixed to the dual-stick telephone bar This means if you start to hint forward You have no way to correct the phone Direction, and it will only turn down, if you only have two propellers in this configuration They both need to be able to rotate with respect to the phone in order to correct movements in all six degrees of freedom For example if the hint starts forward You can rotate it again like this To correct it.

Or if the wind is trying to rotate the phone in this way, this configuration can be assumed Counter that to return to our balance shovel analogy by fixing the actuators directly to the case Even lose your ability to make corrections So not only do you have no idea where to move, but your arm is blocked for making adjustments anyway Making it impossible to strike a balance.

My final physics problem with this video is one of the acoustics This person use it as a hands-free way to watch your favorite super music videos Easily dubbing the audio here For reference, this is what a desk ring would look like on a full-size phone And don't forget, you'll actually need 13 more engines from this, so you'll be at least six times higher. Yet we have meticulously established many of the physical laws that have been broken. Let's find out exactly how he faked it and to do so I arranged a video call with the undisputed heavyweight champion of fake videos using special effects Captain Illusion Make sure to get it as far as possible against your skin to reduce the folds that might make it difficult Key exit Good and tight Hello, You did not have to call now, it is the second I'm actually 5 minutes late So lose it How can I help you? Did you not see the video that you sent? Ah, yes, of course the drone mobile video I totally analyze this sign and my conclusion is that it is absolutely real Seriously, yes Everything except for the mobile drone portion, and this is a bogus If you look Very close You may be able to notice Chat mask on the side of the phone She should be visible in every shot of her Fly Creator in a hurry because it's so messy here He cuts the edge of the phone here with the tip of his finger, and here he reveals the thing It should be hiding a penis that is narrow, light colored, and may be attached to the same mounting tape Which used to be used with all tools That is why he is able to grab and adjust the phone in this shot from the river the mask does not just hide the stick But the person holding it seems closer to this location in real time Water and on this side a fixed frame from a blank version of the shot And if we track the location and rotation of the phone, we can easily Reverse engineer exactly how Dmitt rotates the stick mostly from the point where he is held That was impressive Thanks for taking the time my favorite part of all this is the sound Small fans should have made a little bit of remote noise.

Did not give a suitable drone pilot So the hoaxes recorded the motors closely and reused the same clip in every scene With their mysterious voices in the background Great, thank you very much However, despite the likes and number of posts, messages and tweets Presumably from people with eyeballs who ask me if this painfully apparent adjustment is real over and over again. Well, the captain will take care of that.

How can you do this to me How can you do this? It's fake and now you know The reasons, but it is still an interesting idea and I want to try it G build one without the special effects So naturally, I called my friend Peter Schier, who has the right specs And we built an electrical circuit and started working Obviously if you take two brushless motors into electronic engine speed controllers and a flight controller that actually has a gyroscope and accelerometer Incorporating a 3D printed frame and two devices to illustrate the radio rotation The transmitter to remote control and force the LiPo battery and then put them all together it actually works. We kind of had to do a bunch of test flights to calibrate that Feedback control loop we talked about before So if we notice that the drone is either under Compensation or compensation is more when you start to fall a certain way We pinch the response Sensitivity between trips until we get to the sweet spot, and I would like to remember how the motors from the video are barely fake Lift only six quarters.

Well if you put the right size on the task at hand, they will be able to lift 150 classes. And so we once felt we were in good shape. We took it on the first test flight He's in our defense it was windy here But as you can see, it can be wobbly at times the truth is a bike chopper like this works perfectly It is not just a great design option. The reason is largely why all camera drones are quad copters because they are more stable due to the larger footprint shared between the four engines By adapting to the throttle speeds, you can move in all 6 degrees of freedom without moving parts So you go with solid geometry. You don't need hidden bars or masking and launching Photoshop and can walk Isaac Newton again Rest in his grave. So, the morals of the story are just not cheating and lie in the scandal Actually I want to indulge your amazing maker But then, I check out some other videos of him like this knee brace In theory, it charges your phone and so this lamp works while you walk I'll skip the details But in reality, this system will not work as shown and for this reason if you intend to do so and settle in The pocket you can see click the hidden flash light switch.

If you want to build a flying photo grabber You can watch the video by Peter with all the exciting details. You can find this on their channel or on their new website I created on this site and named Mark Rover build You'll actually see building instructions for a large number of different projects from my channel, which have been made possible by the people on I wanted something simple and elegant and just felt a little guilty I could do something deranged and it only took an hour in part. Thanks for a series of questions You answer her when she starts This basically means You are close to what you want But you can still customize it as much as you want from there Including placing it in one of the hundreds of forms it owns and my website is just a simple way to communicate information But you can create one for your personal or your own brand Or maybe a new business website for your business to sell things, or even book appointments there.

You can log in for free The design and publishing startup is honestly a lot of fun. So, to bend your creative muscles for the whole world to see go to And use the video description link to get started Thanks for watching.

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