The origin of this phrase is very interesting. I always thought it referred to how lucky the Irish were when actually it refers to somewhat the opposite.
According to Edward T. O’Donnell, author of “1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History,” the term is not Irish in origin. The likely origin for this phrase comes from the United States. During the gold rush many Irish people headed out West to find their fortune (or pot o’ gold). Many locals did not like the newcomers and treated them badly in their new home. When the Irish found gold, their success was attributed to “dumb luck” instead of their skill. The locals thought the Irish could only succeed by sheer luck, as opposed to smarts.
This morning I was thinking about the luck of the Irish and the part luck plays in success. My thoughts have mainly been focused on this because I just finished reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
The main premise of Outliers is that it isn’t necessarily the smartest, most talented, or most ambitious people who become the most successful. Gladwell argues that the true story of success contains one more ingredient – opportunity or just plain luck. He has studied many of the most successful people – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Beetles to name just a few. He has also studied very smart people who never became successful. In Outliers, Gladwell explains how the following three components are needed to be highly successful.
1. You Just Need To be Smart Enough
Research has shown that it isn’t the smartest people or the ones with the highest IQs that are the most successful. You don’t have to be the smartest, you just have to be smart enough.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
“You need to work hard, really, really hard” Gladwell says. He also says “the 10,000 hr rule is a definite key in success.” Ten thousand hours is the magic number that researchers say you have to practice in order to reach true expertise in anything.
3. Opportunity or Just Plain Luck
This third criteria is the most overlooked ingredient but found in all cases of highly successful people. It is a set of circumstances, opportunities or just being lucky. Gladwell has found that
“All the outliers we’ve looked at so far were the beneficiaries of some kind of unusual opportunity. Lucky breaks don’t seem like the exception with software billionaires and rock bands and star athletes. They seem like the rule.”
Luck As a Factor of Success
Looking back on my own successes, I do believe that each one had these three components – being smart enough, working very hard, and seizing the opportunities presented to me. I would emphasize that recognizing opportunities and being brave enough to latch onto them was a major component.
Look back on your successes. What part has luck, opportunity or circumstances contributed?
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you now have a better appreciation for the key ingredients of success and understand when you “have the luck of the Irish” you need to grab onto it as it may just be the key to success!
I strongly urge you to read Outliers. I listened to it over Audible during my walks and found that it held my interest