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Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy
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Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  85 reviews
From New York Times bestselling author and economics columnist Robert Frank, a compelling book that explains why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in their success, why that hurts everyone, and what we can do about it

How important is luck in economic success? No question more reliably divides conservatives from liberals. As conservatives correctly observe, peop
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by Princeton University Press (first published February 22nd 2016)
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Popular Answered Questions
Tristan Yes, Taleb is mentioned once in this book with a citation to his "Fooled by Randomness". See the following quote.

"Another disconnect between evidence…more
Yes, Taleb is mentioned once in this book with a citation to his "Fooled by Randomness". See the following quote.

"Another disconnect between evidence and belief is people's tendency to underestimate good fortune's role in success, while being too quick to embrace bad luck as an explanation of failure. The statistician Nassim Taleb, for example, describes this tendency as common among investors."(less)
Michael Harris They'll definitely be covering a similar topic, but De Botton is coming from a humanities-centered perspective and rarely uses data. Frank will try to…moreThey'll definitely be covering a similar topic, but De Botton is coming from a humanities-centered perspective and rarely uses data. Frank will try to demonstrate the same conclusion empirically, I imagine, being an economics professor. (less)

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3.66  · 
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 ·  605 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Atila Iamarino
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economia, sociedade
Um livro curto mas muito bom, com a melhor discussão de meritocracia que já encontrei. O autor faz uma grande discussão sobre porque tendemos a achar mais que o nosso sucesso é devido apenas à competência pessoal conforme ganhamos mais. Também fala sobre o papel da chance e de infraestrutura para alguém poder dar certo.

Tudo isso para argumentar por um tipo diferente de taxação para os mais ricos (que é a área de pesquisa do autor). Não foi bem pelo que li o livro, mas também é uma lição legal.
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
This book is a mixed bag of goodness, thought provocation, and then a seemingly random diversion into tax policy. There are some great dinner party conversation starter ideas contained herein, and if you have ever given this topic any thought, this is worth the time.

In my own personal self-evaluation of the last couple of years, I have been reflecting deeply on the role of seemingly inconsequential acts from unintended benefactors have shaped my future success. There is no doubt, then, that luck
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The subtitle of this book might be a bit misleading. In the intro, Frank stresses that he is not saying that meritocracy is a myth (he often concedes that markets are as competitive as they've ever been) - rather, he's saying that successful people who live in meritocracies often falsely assume that their success is due wholly to their own merit. That is, they ignore the role that luck plays in their success.

Because many successful people ignore the full range of causes behind their success (man
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has three main arguments:

(i) "chance events play a much larger role in important life outcomes than most people once imagined".

(ii)people who recognize this are more grateful and prone to accept taxes that will pay for the needed infrastructure (like education, highways, R&D) that helped them to be where they are now. This infrastructure is not for them, it is for the next generation, so they can have the same basic opportunities or tools they had. This is being grateful.

This two
Apr 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I bought this book because I am interested by the fact that people feel deserving of the rewards of their work; yet in a deep way, we don't influence our talents or even our propensity for hard work. That is, we are have certain natural endowments (say genes) that are cultivated, or not, by our parents and early childhood experiences.

I was disappointed that Frank's book only addresses the philosophical underpinnings of success and luck in a tangential way. He doesn't get into the really deep st
Mar 31, 2018 added it
Shelves: librarybook
Delightful little polemic, refreshingly free of tedious moralizing. If anything the author seems so genuinely humble and grateful for the luck he's experienced in his own life that he somewhat undercuts his own argument -- because many of his confessed strokes of luck would be considered unlucky by a less mature mind! For instance, it turns out that he was given up for adoption at birth by a member of a wealthy family... and he ends up concluding that this was very lucky for him because he consi ...more
This is a compact book by Cornell economist Robert Frank that continues his push to get people to consider his major tax reform idea, but also clothes it in the broader issue of how much talent matters in people's success vs. luck.

Frank's main thesis, backed up by convincing studies, is that because there are so many talented, hard working people striving to succeed, the ones who do reach the rarefied air of the top 1 percent also have to have benefited from a great deal of luck, whether it is t
John Stein
Jun 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: policy-politics
A vitally important observation, that leaders need to understand, but should have been a much better book.

Let's face it, our society is built on the myth of Meritocracy - that the winners got there because they are the "best" and through their own industry and hard work "deserve" their success. The reality is that while in success and work and talent are somewhat correlated in the aggregate - the relationship is looser in the specific. e.g. Two talented lab assistants in the same research lab ar
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a quick and easy read. I'm not sure how much weight anyone should put on my review as I have been drinking this Kool Aid for a few years now. The amount of evidence regarding the connection between success and luck is overwhelming. The author does a good job of walking the reader through the connections and the empirical data along with sprinkling anecdotes from his own and other's lives as well.

I think my favorite part is his metaphor using headwinds and tailwinds on a bicycle. You nev
William Boyle
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book CLEARLY and DIRECTLY addresses the greatest problems of our time, the rapidly increasing political and economic inequities even in our most advanced societies.
FIVE stars! -- Certainly RECOMMENDED!
"Historically, two of the most worrisome practical consequences of increased inequality of wealth have been the creation of family dynasties and increased concentration of political power among the wealthy."
--Robert H. Frank, 2016.
"Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy,"
Scott Johnson
I should mail a hard copy of this to my father and ever other Republican family member I possess.

It's a fantastic and inoffensive approach to introducing a way of thinking that, frankly, goes counter to the exact "reasoning" that led to our current president being in office and the continued myth of Reaganomics.

I don't really have any criticism to discuss other than a tendency to repeat himself, sometimes verbatim, at the end of chapters. At best I have minor critiques of writing like that, none
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Stuart Varney and many others insist that people who amass great fortunes are invariably talented, hardworking, and socially productive. That’s a bit of an overstatement—think of lip-synching boy bands, or derivatives traders who got spectacularly rich who got spectacularly rich before bringing the world economy to its knees. Yet it’s clear that most of the biggest winners in the marketplace are both extremely talented and hardworking. On this point, Varney is largely correct.

But what about the
Peter Mcloughlin
A short book with a few psychological insights that boil down to the simple fact that success depends on luck and chance but successful people think it is all them.
Susan Oleksiw
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
No one wants to believe that all the good things we achieve are the result of chance, or luck, but each one of us knows that finding a good parking space so we were on time for a meeting was plain dumb luck. But we don't continue with that thought, and include the chance meeting with the CEO before the meeting that led to a promotion. And yet, as the author Robert Frank points out, luck plays a role throughout life, and one lucky break becomes magnified over the years.
As part of the discussion,
John  Mihelic
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
In this book, Robert Frank is doing to things in my opinion.

The first is that success in life is due in large part to luck. Your economic outcomes are dependent on lots of things that can be assigned to random chance outside of the old canard of hard working men pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. I think the case is made in the book for that hypothesis to viewed as mostly true.

The second part is that there should be a progressive consumption tax. This is dropped in the last third of the b
Clark Hays
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ignoring luck imperils society

Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, by Robert Frank, is a quick and illuminating read about the fundamental role of luck in success, how ignoring that simple truth contributes to wealth inequality, and a straightforward tax-based solution to help mitigate it.

The problem is simple: people who succeed, at anything really, attribute their success solely to hard work and perseverance, negating the ever-present role of luck. And those who don’t s
Jason Furman
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, economics
Nicely written, thought provoking, thoughtful, an argument for the importance of luck and the reasons (some good and adaptive and others problematic) that the more successful we are the more we undervalue its importance. Robert Frank does not argue that the successful are not talented or hard working, just that these are not enough. In the course of this argument he extensively reprises some of his major previous themes, including the winner take all economy (which magnifies the importance of an ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Acknowledge you are lucky -> Don't claim more credit than you deserve -> Realize that you have surplus earnings -> Pay more taxes -> Taxes will ensure continuity of the social/economic order which is the source of luck.
Argues for progressive consumption taxes to curtail (wasteful) positional expenditures of the super-rich.
Sean Cunningham
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Glad I read this. Interesting meditation on the role of luck In success. Progressive consumption tax chapter seemed misplaced.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bibliocase
What is the importance played by luck in success? Are achievements purely attributable to hard work, talent and skills alone? Do high achievers over emphasise the 'Bismarkian' motto of blood, sweat and tears at the expense of the crucial factor of luck? Robert H. Frank, the H. J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell University's Johnson School of Management addresses these though provoking questions in an engaging and keen fashion in his book, "Success and Luck: Go ...more
Adam Ford
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an odd little book. It appears to be about the phenomenon of society's winners taking too much credit for their success; of their wrongly discounting the role luck played in their wealth/fame/power. And it is about that sometimes.

But mostly Frank's book is about his crusade to convince the US to drop income taxes and adopt a progressive consumption tax. The progressive income tax is calculated as taxable income minus annual additions to savings minus a large standard deduction. So if a
Ron Brown
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Robert Frank is an economist at Cornell University. He is a columnist with the New York Times and has authored a number of economic books.
Success and Luck should be required reading for all those interested in how the economy and society operates. The book has two themes. Firstly, it looks at how the concept or idea of luck plays an important role in people's lives. Too often those who are “successful” (especially in obtaining wealth) attribute their success purely to their hard work and dedicat
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
The author advocates a tax on what is not saved, in other words, a tax on consumption. This concept is interesting, and it's the first time I'd read about it in any detail. As a result of the book, I'll pay more attention to tax policies put before the American people,

What interested me most, however, is the case the author makes for the differences in perception between successful people who believe their success is due almost entirely to their own efforts versus those who believe at least some
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it
ITs good and I agree that too many people discount luck in their success. I agree that people who do this discounting also are those who want to reduce public expenditure (“Who needs it? I didn’t!”). Successful business people forget that they were lucky that another entrepreneur didn’t get there first, or that an established company was unable to muscle in on their business. They were also lucky to be born in an affluent society where they could be educated for free in publicly funded schools, ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Finally managed to find some time to finish this book. Frank is trying to emphasis a very important point from what I could see a psychological and mathematical point of view on the role of luck in our career and lives.

Considering these days the concern is more about being over-worked, success may not be that easily achieved by reading a book by Tony Robbins and being persistent and hardworking.

If everyone is also trying their best, any additional advantage you could gain would be minimal.

Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a quick and interesting read. Some of the stuff is intuitive and easy to guess, but he shares a lot of psych studies that provide a fascinating perspective on human nature.

Basically, people tend to downplay the role of luck in their own success. The more they do not recognize luck as part of the reason for their success, the more likely they are to want/fight for more money for themselves and the less likely they are to do things for others or for the good of the group. But as Frank sho
Matias Isla
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Si bien (como él mismo menciona) la meritocracia puede existir, solemos sobre-valorar el rol que juega el esfuerzo y el talento en la obtención del éxito. Por supuesto son elementos importantes pero el autor nos muestra que frente estos aspectos la suerte se corona como la variable eternamente olvidada y subestimada.
Es un libro corto y sumamente ameno que usa diversos mecanismos narrativos para hacerte reaccionar entorno a sus descubrimientos del rol de la suerte, los límites de la relación entr
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The premise is that more and more success is being realized by a few whose results are partly to largely influenced by chance. Great. I was hoping this book would contain more meat to it but an annoying part of the book talks about why we should switch to a progressive consumption tax. Ok, fine, lovely idea but the rest of the book visits a few basic facts and studies that have been visited elsewhere. This is a slightly more academic version of Gladwell's book "Outliers" and focuses on similar s ...more
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Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and a Professor of Economics at Cornell University's S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management. He contributes to the "Economic View" column, which appears every fifth Sunday in The New York Times.
“the average number of legs in any human population is slightly less than two. So most people actually do have “more legs than average.” 2 likes
“Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 1 likes
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