What do best-selling authors John Grisham, J K Rowling and Theodor Geisel (creator of childhood favourite Dr. Seuss) all have in common?
Beyond their literary success and award winning feats of imagination, they each faced multiple professional rejections before making it big.
Grisham’s manuscript A Time to Kill was rejected by twenty-six publishers. Dr Seuss went one better with And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and was turned down by twenty-seven. And the first Harry Potter was shown the door by nine.
Each of these acclaimed writers backed their work, refined it and persisted. Their determination was finally rewarded with publishing success and much loved books - and the rest is literary history.
That’s lucky for us, but it was more than luck that made the difference for them.
In his book The Drunkard’s Walk, Leonard Mlodinow tells his readers that hard work and persistence matter – because these are the factors that increase your chances of success when good luck, chance or a random act comes your way.
SUCCESS IS A CHOICE
According to the United States’ Pew Research Center, those in higher income brackets are far more likely to believe that individuals get rich primarily from working hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.
American non-fiction author and finacial journalist Michael Lewis agrees. 'People really don't like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives.'
Success, those who enjoy it believe, stems mostly from application to task - and a simple, dogged determination not to give up.
History too suggests that extraordinary dedication is what lays the groundwork for that moment when random chance plays its hand.
Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911. She led her educational life in miserable conditions, without food or any home comforts, but her hard work determined her luck and that is why world remembers her today.
LESS PERFECTION, MORE AUTHENTICITY
From authentic endeavour comes authentic success – and those who are pretenders to the throne risk being found out. In 1989, performers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus gained international acclaim as R&B duo Milli Vanilli. Their debut album “Girl You Know It’s True” earned multi-platinum success and the group sold more than 30 million singles worldwide. A year following their meteoric rise, the duo came under scrutiny after it was revealed that they did not sing any of the vocals heard on the recording. They returned their 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Their chance encounter with stardom quickly spiraled, leading to a career demise and public outcry over lip-syncing. Attempts to re-launch their careers in a more authentic way were tarnished by the scandal.
Eight years later, Rob Pilatus was found dead after allegedly ingesting a mixture of pills and alcohol. He was just thirty-two years of age.
It was already a heavy load to carry the secret for years, and it literally took my brother [Rob] six feet underground. I feel very lucky and blessed that I’m still here today able to breathe and reinvent myself. - Fab Morvan
Success is won, but with endeavour rather than luck. That’s not to say that drive and determination can’t be coupled with an open heart and acceptance of chance good fortune. It’s a golden pathway and the narrative of many a success story – in business, in love, in interests and in friendship.