Photo by Moritz Mentges on Unsplash

What matters more, Hard Work or Luck?

Eric Lastname
6 min readNov 11, 2021

Recently there have been some popular content creators diving into the idea of luck vs skill, publishing videos with millions of views. Some popular examples (but not nearly all of them) are below:

In short, these videos focus on the idea:

What matters more, Hard Work or Luck?

And for most of them, they argue luck is the primary factor for success.

Unsatisfying as an explanation, these videos often throw some basic numbers at the problem and claim that luck is most important when determining success. Quoting directly from Veritasiums video where he talks about a model he made to represent astronauts being chosen to go to space:

The astronauts that were picked were very lucky; they had an average luck score of 94.7%

That is some crazy high luck! 94.7%? Who is that lucky? What does that even mean? This left me, and I assume millions of other viewers, thinking that we cannot succeed without some extraordinary luck. Though this question is much more important than simple numerical models can show, let’s dive a bit deeper into the models used to show why this question, and particularly the way it’s presented in these videos, is disastrously flawed.

Problematic Model, the Sum of Skill and Luck

The models presented in these videos most often looks something like the following:

  1. Generate a population of people

Eric Lastname

Software Developer, AWS. Natural Language Processing and Crypto.