Luck: Libertarian vs Communist

What’s the secret behind successful people? How come they are lucky whereas others are not?

For conservatives or libertarians, luck is self-made. They say, we live in the best time in history to capitalize on one’s potential. There’s so much opportunity available with the internet now. To them, luck is a product of hard work and determination. Sure, chance is involved they would concede, but why focus on what you can’t control? You can always improve and lift yourself beyond your current station. Lift yourself up from your bootstraps. This tends to be how many successful entrepreneurs think. Not to mention most people of privilege.

For liberals and progressives, luck is structural. They say a history of oppression has created an unequal playing field that’s reinforced by social, political, and economic systems. Hard work is not enough for oppressed people without the same opportunities and safety net. Privileged classes of people get multiple chances to try again whereas others do not enjoy that luxury. They say we need to make the playing field equal. They say the self-determination myth is just a way to distract people from systematic injustice. Malcolm Gladwell convincingly takes this view in his writings and his podcast.

I’ve been mulling over these two views for years. At the extremes, you have the Ayn Rand individualist self-determination vs Karl Marx’s class struggle. When it comes to making decisions for my own life, I tend to go the self-made mindset, but when it comes to social and political issues, I tend towards the progressive attitude. But, the challenge might be simply seeing both at the same time. Integral Theory you could say.

It’s very easy (and tempting) to fall into the extreme of the self-pity victim mentality where you only blame others or even . You abandon your responsibility for your life by shutting down into just life is unfair. This is one side to avoid.

Likewise, we can believe that anything is possible and therefore any failure is only my fault. This would be extreme responsibility to the point of self-harm and too much harsh self-judgment.

On one hand, there’s an attachment to feeling powerless and thereby skirting responsibility for one’s life and actions. On the other hand, there’s the attachment to an extreme form of self-determination. Both are incorrect.

Originally, I wanted to write about how to develop luck. I argue luck is a practicable skill. This skill is how to take calculated risks well. But, I wanted to cover all of this as the basis first. So, join me again when I go into how to cultivate your luck.

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