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Posts Tagged ‘chance’

Recently, Mitt Romney took after President Obama’s slip, “You didn’t build that” to indict Obama for diss’ing entrepreneurs. (The president meant that successful business people did not build the infrastructures upon which their enterprises depend.) The deeper question beyond the political “gotcha” was how much of the credit for individuals’ success should go to their own skills and efforts versus how much should go to the community and government.

whitehouse.gov

Americans typically give a lot more credit for a person’s success to the individual than do people in other cultures (see, for example this earlier post). In a recent column David Brooks observed the paradox that, in order for us to act forcefully, we need to believe that we control our fates, even if upon sober reflection we must acknowledge how much we depend on others for our success.

Here I want to add another element to the discussion, to think about how much of individuals’ success (or failure) is due to chance and history. Recent research suggests that random events early in a career can make a big difference, because advantage builds upon advantage.

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