Just finished The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow. This book really opened my mind to the idea that personal success is more a result of statistics than initiative. I’m not totally sure what to actually *do* with that information, other than to continue my own drunkard’s stumble through life and hope for the best. Now I’m assured that both good and bad things will happen to me, they are beyond my control, and there’s little more to do than surf the Brownian motion waves. Zen by way of math.
I just finished listening to Outliers by Malcom Gladwell while simulateously reading Drunkard’s Walk (more about that next entry.) The case against the hero stereotype – the person who makes it to the top because of exceptional brilliance, pluck, or talent – is neatly destroyed by Gladwell’s arguments. He takes some well know examples of extraordinary success, such as Bill Gates and the Beatles, and traces their paths backwards to see what got them where they are today. The keys are timing, luck, and socio-economic history, and not necessarily their individual traits. I could be Gates or Lennon, it seems, if not for being born in the wrong decade in the wrong part of the country. Oh well.