And why that’s a good thing.
It sounds like an insult when in fact it’s true.
If you think I am wrong, I first of all I want to invite you to do something. I want you to think about how many per cent of your success you think you are truly responsible for. Take all the achievements you are proud of in your life and write down a number between 0 and 100%. How much of that was achieved by you. Got it? Great, let’s go.
I always used to be proud of the things that I had achieved in my life. I used to be proud that I won those chess tournaments in my youth. I used to be proud that I finished school and went to University to study Medicine. I was proud when I got my degree, feeling somewhat sublime to so many other people. I was proud when I ran my first marathon.
Proud of this achievement in my life. Proud of that achievement.
The concept of pride is understandable. We think we have accomplished something and that is a good thing. We need goals in our life that we can aim for because they keep us advancing and growing. But when you’re feeling pride when you just scored a big success is a deception of your brain.
Because you don’t deserve your success. Any of it.
The ovarian lottery
You’ve probably heard of Warren Buffett. If not, go google him. He is the most successful investor of all time, currently 3rd richest man in the world and has a net worth of about 83 billion USD. So he should be proud of his success, right?
He talked about the ovarian lottery in this context.
Put 7.7 billion balls in a big bowl. That’s the estimated world population in 2019. Now pull out 10 balls. If you had the chance to live your life again and you could trade it for any of the ten balls you’re seeing now, would you do it?
Probably not. You could end up growing up in the slums of Mumbai or be sold into prostitution as a little girl in Thailand.
Let’s continue this thought for a minute.
7% of all of our species of humans in history live in the present time. That means that there is a 93% chance that you were born in any other time of history.
Add the simple fact that you were the one out of 250 million sperms that left your father to fertilize your mother’s ovum to eventually form you reduced your chance to be born at all to close to zero.
Ever been proud of being born before? Probably not, but it’s your biggest achievement ever.
So Buffett rightfully quotes Bill Gates telling him that he would have made the perfect lunch for an animal a few thousand years ago, because he can’t climb trees and he can’t run really fast.
Buffett is correct in not taking pride that his life turned out the way it did. Because when we break it down, he was just incredible lucky to have been born at the right time, in the right country, the right part of town with the right family, for in the past or most other places in the world he would have been just as unimportant to the world as you and me.
Your success is the result of the sum of all your experiences
Ok, so I was lucky to be born the way I have but from then on I was responsible for my success and not coincidence, right?
Your success is the result of the sum of all your experiences
This is so incredibly important to understand. So step back from the screen and let that sink in for just a minute.
Your success, all your achievements, everything you’ve ever accomplished in your life results from something you have experienced or that has happened to you in the past.
Taking pride in how ambitious you are, that you are focused and don’t get distracted easily, that you worked those long shifts, stayed longer and worked harder than the others and finally got that promotion?
Thank your parents and the people who raised you instead.
You got your genes from your parents. A completely random rolling of the dices of destiny brought up your combination of genes, which brought up all your abilities, your personality, your health and intelligence.
Worse genes? Less intelligent, less focus, same hard work but less outcome in your work → No promotion.
Worse genes? Reduced health, maybe back problems (thanks mum and dad, by the way!) or worse immune system → Sick more often → Worse outcome in your work → No promotion.
Or maybe precisely your genes, but just a different part of town, a different family.
If you had the same genes, but the family you grew up in always said that people who earn a lot of money are bad, you probably grew up always thinking that money is the devil and that you should avoid it → Less effort at work → No promotion.
Different part of town, different school you went to, different friends, different influences. They could have lead to you to dropping out of school, starting to do drugs and ending up on the street. What promotion again?
My winning of the chess tournaments in my youth? Thanks mom and dad for my concentration. Thanks grandpa’, for sitting down with me to teach me how play chess. Thanks parents, for realizing I’ve got a talent and paying for my hobby.
My finishing school and going to University? Once again, thanks mom and dad for my ability to learn something. Thanks for getting me interested in certain things to lead to my life-decisions. Thanks for teaching me to push through the tough times. Thanks for financing my life up until I started to make my own money.
Thanks to all the authors and writers that wrote the books and articles I read in the past years that further formed my personality and reshaped my view on the importance of life and helped me lead a happier life.
I was lucky to have been born at the right time, in the right family. I met the right people that showed me at the right time in life what I needed to know to advance all the way to where I am right now.
Simply not meeting a person, who tells you of that one specific book you read that later changes your life could end up taking you a completely different route in life.
From 80 to 0.
So let’s look back at the number you wrote down.
If you are like most people you probably wrote down somewhere around 60–80%.
Now that you know that you’ve won the ovarian lottery, that of all the 7.7 billion people on earth, which are only roughly 7% of our species who have ever lived, you have picked the ball that lead you to be born where you are right now…
Now that you know that all your personality traits are due to a random rolling of dices and were shaped by the people you met in your life, the things you had seen and all the experiences…
Knowing all that, how much do you think you’re responsible for your own success now?
If your answer now is 0%, then you are correct. While you might be the one having achieved all those things, it’s luck and the sum of your experiences in your life that are responsible for your success.
Luck deserves no pride
You see? All the things we are usually so proud of, all we’ve ever achieved. It was all just pure luck. And luck deserves no pride.
The lottery winner won’t be proud because he/she was so amazing, so much better than all the others to have picked the right numbers.
But the lottery winners are happy about their victory. Why? Because they are grateful for the luck they had.
And that is the good thing that can come from realizing that you don’t deserve your success at all.
By erasing the feeling of pride of our achievements in life and instead replacing it with gratefulness for all that was given to us, we can not only be a more humble, more caring and thoughtful person. We also attract other people of the same traits to live a life by our sides and further our development, which eventually leads to a more successful life.
As a result to be more successful, get rid of pride.
So next time you catch yourself feeling proud of something, take a step back, reevaluate and thank all the people that shaped your thinking, your acting and your personality traits as well as luck, for achieving that. Not yourself.