Comments like "World-class entrepreneurs are never lucky. Never. You make your own luck." (via https://twitter.com/jchyip/status/248359484265754624) seriously piss me off.
To me, they're a sign that the person uttering them (or merely repeating them) has no clue whatsoever about psychology or genetics, and are crazy enough to think that they deserve all the credit for their success.
We humans are prone to a bias called "attributional bias". It's one of the key factors in the double standards that are pervasive in human society.
If something good happens to us or one of our friends, then they deserved it. If something bad happens, then they're unlucky.
On the other hand, if something good happens to a stranger or someone we don't like, then they were just lucky, or even cheated, whereas is something bad happens to them, then they probably did something to deserve it.
Meanwhile, back in reality, luck is a huge and pervasive part of life.
When we're born, there's not only the genetic lottery to contend with, but also the "life circumstances" lottery.
I had the good fortune to be born with a mind well suited to abstract problem solving tasks and to be born into a country in an era where abstract problem solving was a skill in high demand.
There are personality traits and other characteristics that make it easier to succeed in life. Being diligent and hard working, being charismatic, being physically attractive, skilled at sports, being good at problem solving.
We don't deserve much of the credit for those things - they're a matter of getting lucky in both the genetic lottery and our life circumstances.
So what can we legitimately take credit for?
Well, that's an interesting question. My own perspective is that we can't take credit for much. The person we are right now is the sum total of the genetic inheritance from our parents, along with all of the interactions we've had with the environment (including other people) since then.
But this is a large part of why I'm a firm believer in a redistributive tax system. If the "winners" have received a healthy dose of luck, and the "losers" have largely been unlucky, then the redistribution is just a matter of attempting to balance out the casual randomness of the universe.
When you give people too much credit for outcomes, then you risk falling into the trap that those who succeed (by whatever measure you choose, with wealth and power being obvious ones) are actually better and more valuable than those who have not succeeded by that measure.
About the only metric I'd accept as a reasonable measure of the "value" of a person is "How much suffering have they wilfully caused?"
So clearly, I'm prepared to give people credit for the amount of suffering they cause (or reduce).
I'm also prepared to give them credit for creating joy.
But there's a healthy dose of luck in both of those, too.
It's also one of the things that infuriates me about nationalistic jingoism. What, precisely, makes someone more deserving of our care and concern, just because they were born on the same patch of dirt we were?
What choice did they have about where they were born? What choice did we? Should we compound someone's suffering, just because the numbers came up "Afghanistan" rather than "Australia"?
A bunch of this also ties back in to https://thoughtstreams.io/ncoghlan_dev/more-and-better-future/
My concept of "self" is that our individual senses of identity are emergent properties of particular standing waves in the energy pattern of the universe.
Not some weird metaphysical field, but the real stuff - the energy that gives us mass.
Each of us is composed of trillions of cells and the interactions between them, and a vastly greater number of individual atoms.
Much of the formation of that pattern comes down to luck, yet we can still identify a useful and meaningful scope for the concept of free will.
And it's intrinsically tied in with the capacity to suffer, and to be aware of the suffering of others and to make a choice about whether or not we take action to increase or decrease that suffering.
How we think about that often comes back around to how we think about fortune, good or bad. If we're fortunate ourselves, and think that reflects merit on our part, and similarly think that poor outcomes reflect a lack of merit on the part of others, then we're more likely to oppose taking action to redistribute outcomes more "fairly".
On the other hand, if we think outcomes contain a healthy portion of sheer random luck, then the concept of using taxes, or philanthropy or some other mechanism to reduce the suffering caused by the vagaries of chance starts to look quite appealing.