When I drive my car, no matter where I go, there are only three types of drivers on the road:
1) Idiots – those driving slower than me.
2) Maniacs – those driving faster than me.
Of course, the fact that to all the Idiots out there, I appear to be a Maniac, and to all the Maniacs, I appear an Idiot is not lost on me. Nor is the fact that I am simultaneously and Idiot and a Maniac – a pairing that is about as easy to achieve as someone willingly volunteering to go hunting with Dick Cheney. It’s all part of the dynamic of dealing with traffic, and one of the reasons I’m a huge proponent of Public Transit.
I’ve experienced this same dynamic in the workplace.
However you choose to define success, there are three necessary ingredients: hard work, smarts, and luck. The proportion of each may vary widely from situation to situation, but all three elements are always present.
Some managers achieve some success, and think it’s because they’re much smarter than everyone else. These same people are to be avoided at cocktail parties, and are typically very poor listeners.
Other managers are sure they’ve achieved success because they have always worked harder than everyone else. These people are the ones that work insane hours, and expect everyone else to do likewise. They are mostly dysfunctional as human beings, and don’t have time to go to cocktail parties.
Finally, there are some managers who believe they have achieved success because of overwhelming good luck. They likely suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and don’t believe they actually deserve the success they’ve had. They will be really thankful to be invited to the cocktail party, but will stand with their back to wall to ensure that no one sneaks up behind them, and asks them to leave.
There are two important things to take from this.
1) If you’ve done very well, don’t ever discount the role that luck has played.
2) If you’ve faced some challenges achieving success, you may want to try working smarter, or working harder.
Think about it next time you’re driving to work.