It just dawned on me - there's the "you can do anything, be anything, have anything" crowd - and obviously, that's not literally true. Could anyone play professional golf and win the Masters and perform as first chair violin at a prestigious symphony? Nah, probably not.
But I always think to myself, "I can do anything except the things I can't do yet, and I could learn those and do them if I want to." Most successful people I know think the same way.
Trying to reconcile that, I start thinking: You might need natural talent to win at a zero-sum game, or if you're competing for limited pieces of pie.
But you don't need natural talent for positive sum games. Positive sum games make multiple winners and expand the pie more than what the person eats.
NBA? On the court, it's a zero sum game. Every "W" in the win column comes at the expense of putting an "L" in another team's loss column. There's 5 starters, and if you want to start, you've got to take someone else's spot when they retire or get sent to the bench. Then there's a few more rotation spots, and a few more non-rotation bench spots. And that's pretty much it.
That means that hard work, hustle, struggle, discipline might not be enough to play NBA-level basketball. Because there's only so many spots.
But positive sum games don't require natural talent - by building more, accomplishing more, facilitating more in way that makes it possible for others to build more, accomplish more, and facilitate more - well, then you never run out of spots. To be an NBA player, you're knocking someone else off an NBA team. To get into an NBA rotation, you're taking someone else's minutes. To become an NBA starter, someone else is retiring or getting sent to the bench.
So maybe you can't be an NBA player. Because there's somebody that'll work just as hard as you but also might have been born taller, or put on denser muscle mass, or has a higher vertical jump even after you've trained like crazy on it.
But don't make the mistake that all of life is like this. Anyone could succeed teaching craftsmanship, because people learning more about art, engineering, machinery, and building stuff makes them willing, excited, and able to learn even more about art, engineering, machinery, and building stuff. There's a near infinite role for good craftsmanship and good teachers of craftsmanship in the world. There's a near infinite role for good business. For good science. For good art. It makes other things possible if you do a good enough job of it.
That doesn't make it easy. But if you hustle long and hard enough, you should be able to break through if you're playing a positive sum game.
I hear people talk about luck a lot. Straightup - luck doesn't exist.
If you believe in luck, then you believe either: (1) some people consistently defy probability, or, (2) some things aren't a result of cause and effect.
Life is a series of probability. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen. If you want to have a successful life, expose yourself to as much high-upside low-downside probability as you can. Any given thing you do might not work out, but if you expose yourself to high-upside low-downside, good things will happen. Read books, reach out to people, try to get projects working, keep trying to write and build things, keep learning new skills, keep treating people well.
If you want to fail at life, expose yourself to high-downside no-upside probability. This is short term gain at long term expense type stuff. Cigarettes. Unsecured debt for consumption. Most TV.
You'll keep getting "lucky" if you keep exposing yourself to things with upside and limited downside. If you get an amazing job or contract that you had a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting, were you lucky? No, especially not if you applied and pitched 1,000 other places. If you say, "Ok, I'm going to keep trying to get what I want until I do" you'll get it, as long as it's a positive sum game you're playing.
If you ask my top 3 most significant achievements, I will not hesitate to answer:
For three years in college, I cruised along 1.2-1.45. The next semester, my general weighted average fell below the required grade of 1.45.
All of grade school and high school, I've always been officially the "best in math" my batch. Then one summer, I'm thrust into a group of students where I'm the oldest. Also the only one who doesn't know Trigonometry.
I've always been thin. Until I got fat.