By Darius Okolla
There’s a pervasive underlying assumption that there exists a set of key qualities and traits that we can learn, from those who’ve acquired what you aspire to have. That’s the heart of the success/motivational literature; the belief that a cocktail of traits such as emotional intelligence, talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, and growth mindset can help explain how they got ahead. And honestly these are key aspects for anyone trying to get anything done.
Even then, true as they may be, we often ignore the people who possessed all those traits and tried the same thing yet they still failed in their efforts. We suffer from SURVIVORSHIP BIAS; meaning we are able to attribute the success of those who made it to certain qualities because those who possess the same traits yet they failed, fade away. That’s why much as intelligence, effort, networks etc are key contributors it’s interesting just how much of personal or institutional success is often left unexplained.
This reality intrigues even the researchers, and recent studies by behavioural scientist Malcom Gladwell, risk analyst Nassim Taleb, sociologist Bondiio, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and finance expert Robert Frank have individually demonstrated how luck and chance play a huge role in personal and generational outcomes.
That’s why we can give credit where it’s due but still wonder how much success Equity bank, MPESA, MKU and other indigenous innovations would have had, had they not hit national status right at the heart of the 2000s neoliberal boom. Pretty much anyone who went into banking, mobile telephony, real estate, retail supermarket, and higher education achieved a considerable level of success. The unexplainable variance can to a significant degree be correlated with the positive context of a growing economy.
Meanwhile anyone who went into real estate, finance sector, and higher-ed post 2012 went into losses almost to a man. And that’s why the SAPs austerities are a worrying reality. There’s going to be a generation that no matter how hard they work, the outcome of their efforts is going to be disproportionately lower thanks to the current tanking economy. The 2000s success weren’t geniuses. They simply existed in a context that positively and sometimes cumulatively complimented their personal efforts.
In the social mobility scale the top 1% whom Warren Buffet calls the lucky sperm club have all the capacity to stay afloat, meanwhile the 2nd 5-15% require strong traits and also cognizance of how a fair dose of luck and opportunity may play a far greater role in the outcome of their lives. LUCK and CHANCE aren’t the same thing though, or to quote behavioral scientist McRaney….Randomness, chance, and the noisy chaos of reality may be mostly impossible to predict or tame, but luck is something else. According to psychologist Richard Wiseman, luck – bad or good – is just what you call the results of a human being consciously interacting with chance, and some people are better at interacting with chance than others. The lucky try more things, and fail more often, but when they fail they shrug it off and try something else. Occasionally, things work out…
For those in the lower rungs of economic structure, their fate tends to have an even higher correlation to the context of their existence. In other words they have lower capacity for success, given that the chances needed to improve the odds of luck, are far much lower in this wobbly and tanking socioeconomic environment. The chances are so diminished in this SAPs austerity environment that they border on the probability of a miracle happening, coz that’s what the working class, the working poor, the poor and those in the lowest socioeconomic rungs will need in this economy-a miracle. It’s going to take a lot of willpower, political intervention, and strategy to redeem this otherwise ‘lost decade’ especially for those with little economic wiggle room and purchasing power.