Guest ElizabethLee

paulgraham.com

26 posts in this topic

This website has provided me unending hours of procrastination [on which he has an article; http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html ]. I promised myself not to procrastinate by reading that article today!

You all may find his posts interesting and amusing, particularly if you are interested in startups or computer software.

Here are his quotes' page items: http://www.paulgraham.com/quo.html

Because it's an -enormous- site and he updates the site a lot [i've had the experience of not being able to find pages], I presume the quotes I'm seeing today are temporary. Thus I post quite a few of them so you can see what I liked [but not all agreed with].

The Brad Pitt one at the end really got me.

Section titles are mine.

"The less confident you are, the more serious you have to act."

- Tara Ploughman

"We're even wrong about which mistakes we're making."

- Carl Winfeld

"Your twenties are always an apprenticeship, but you don't always know what for."

- Jan Houtema

"The art of handling university students is to make oneself appear, and this almost ostentatiously, to be treating them as adults...."

- Arnold Toynbee, Experiences

The sons of Hermes love to play,

And only do their best when they

Are told they oughtn't;

Apollo's children never shrink

From boring jobs but have to think

Their work important.

- W. H. Auden, Under Which Lyre

"Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all."

- Winston Churchill

"That book is good in vain which the reader throws away. He only is the master who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again; and whose conclusion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day."

- Johnson, Lives of the Poets: Dryden

"Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

- Alan Kay

"Dealing with failure is easy: Work hard to improve. Success is also easy to handle: You've solved the wrong problem. Work hard to improve."

- Alan Perlis

"Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming."

- Donald Knuth

"Lisp has jokingly been called "the most intelligent way to misuse a computer". I think that description is a great compliment because it transmits the full flavor of liberation: it has assisted a number of our most gifted fellow humans in thinking previously impossible thoughts."

- Edsger Dijkstra, CACM, 15:10

"The path from good to evil goes through bogus."

- Tara Ploughman

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

- Yeats, The Second Coming

"Modern invention has been a great leveller. A machine may operate far more quickly than a political or economic measure to abolish privilege and wipe out the distinctions of class or finance."

- Ivor Brown, The Heart of England

"In France those absurd perversions of the art of war which covered themselves under the name of chivalry were more omnipotent than in any other country of Europe. The strength of the armies of Philip and John of Valois was composed of a fiery and undisciplined aristocracy which imagined itself to be the most efficient military force in the world, but which was in reality little removed from an armed mob."

- C. W. C. Oman, The Art of War in the Middle Ages

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

- Brandeis

"Many big people were chasing me. I didn't know what to do. So I thought I would surprise them and throw it."

- Garo Yepremian, Miami placekicker, after a disastrous attempt to throw a pass in the Super Bowl.

"Many large and high class greengrocers of my acquaintance have never heard of the Golden Wonder potato."

- Roy Genders, Vegetables for the Epicure

"The topic of the third lecture, in early November, will be 'Diagnosis and Treatment of So-Called Clinical Depression with the Hubbard Mark Super VII Quantum Electropsychometer'."

- announcement of lecture by Tom Cruise

"I had my own reactions to Paul's essay-- on the whole I liked it but when I connected some dots I found some suggestions of things I strongly disliked-- not so much in the essay as suggested by it."

- reaction to What You Can't Say in a blog

"In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."

- AP story on Kansas Board of Education

"People who read Cosmopolitan magazine are very different from those who do not."

- Donald Berry, Statistics: A Bayesian Perspective

"Simultaneously reifying and challenging hegemonic codes of race, class, gender and regional or national identity, his characters explore the complex and changing postmodern cultural landscape."

- Robert Bennett, English professor at Montana State, announcing a panel discussion about Brad Pitt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not too sure. He says that luck is necessary to be a super rich which is false.

His super-rich is on the order of many millions, let's hypothetically say $100M. I'm inclined to agree there's some luck involved to make that kind of serious money in a lifetime. Do you not agree?

For ex., many inventions are ahead of their time or etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

- Yeats, The Second Coming

That is a blanket statement that is often completely wrong. For instance, it would disqualify Ayn Rand as being one of "the best"---since she had many strong convictions---and it would characterize her as "the worst," since she was full of passionate intensity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ElizabethLee,

His super-rich is on the order of many millions, let's hypothetically say $100M. I'm inclined to agree there's some luck involved to make that kind of serious money in a lifetime. Do you not agree?

How would you define "luck"?

Why do you think there is necessarily some luck involved with making serious money?

~Carrie~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That is a blanket statement that is often completely wrong.  For instance, it would disqualify Ayn Rand as being one of "the best"---since she had many strong convictions---and it would characterize her as "the worst," since she was full of passionate intensity.

of course. So now you see what I see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ElizabethLee,

  How would you define "luck"?

  Why do you think there is necessarily some luck involved with making serious money?

hi Carrie!

LOL. Ummm, have you ever started a company? Tried to make $10,000 on your own? Or $1,000,000? It's not an easy feat. Customers have standards and there turn out to be competitors...

Where is the plan to make $100M in one lifetime without any luck? By the dint of pure hard work and intelligence, by the dint of things under one's direct control? Please let me know about it because I'll definitely sign up! I have never heard of such a thing and I don't think it's possible.

I think if I work hard and have a great idea, I have a good shot at $1M. But to get $100M, now you're talking a whole different ballpark.

We seem to be clearly on different wavelengths, feel free to write again of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

p.s. Maybe the confusion is in

what it takes to -make- $100M

vs

what one says about one who -has- made $100M

I certainly would say anyone who [legally,ethically etc] has made $100M is some kind of a genius, no doubt about that, they did something right! And they get the credit. Luck doesn't get credit in that sense.

But looking ahead, it's very important to catch opportunities. One definition of luck: opportunity meets preparation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
p.s. Maybe the confusion is in ...

One definition of luck:  opportunity meets preparation.

With this characterization of "luck," I suppose Edison and Ford were lucky. What then would you call a person who wins the lottery?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be fair, the article by Mr. Graham speaks of more than luck. One cannot read it and come away thinking he is asking anyone to rely on luck as the primary means to success.

On luck itself, when I think of the concept, rather than thinking of Bill Gates, I think of Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer. Sometimes great people are associated with super-star-people for reasons that they had no hand in creating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sometimes great people are associated with super-star-people for reasons that they had no hand in creating.

From local news articles, I have a vague impression that Paul Allen is very wealthy. That is about all I know of him.

Is he an example of a great person; and did he gain his wealth merely from association with Bill Gates -- or from working with him in some way?

If the latter, did Bill Gates randomly choose to work with Paul Allen or did Allen have some quality of some sort that qualified him to be chosen for productive association?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
From local news articles, I have a vague impression that Paul Allen is very wealthy. That is about all I know of him.

Is he an example of a great person; and did he gain his wealth merely from association with Bill Gates -- or from working with him in some way?

If the latter, did Bill Gates randomly choose to work with Paul Allen or did Allen have some quality of some sort that qualified him to be chosen for productive association?

Bill Gates is actually a few years younger than Paul Allen and at their meeting Bill was the excited younger one. Paul (I think), was 14 and Bill was 12, they met while attending a private school that their parents sent them too. They would get together and work in the computer lab at all hours of the day and night sometimes at the detriment of other courses. The two of them would actually sneek off to the computer lab for an all night session arriving home just in time to sneek in their homes. Paul at the time, early 1970's, had already been working with computers for a while and showed Bill a passion that he also chose. I would not call Paul Allen lucky, he earned it. He might not be the genius of Bill Gates, but you do not fall into billions of dollars. (If I am wrong here, please correct me, I read Bill's story long ago.)

I do like it when someone says "your so lucky to get where you have gotten". Although I am not a millionaire, yet, I have put in some effort that they would not even think or dream about. I was not lucky to have sold my car to finance college. I was not lucky to have run out of money without finishing college. I was not lucky to graduate from Marine Corps Bootcamp, I earned it. I was not lucky when I fell into a hole while on a night patrol and broke my neck, then crawling out. I was not lucky to start a business, I went around $50,000 in debt. I was not lucky when half of my clients quit within two weeks of 9/11/01, but I still had the same bills. I was not lucky to have gone through around $10,000 over the next three months of my savings while still paying all my bills without missing one payment. I was not lucky when I gained all of them back and on up to around 90 people, from 15. I am not lucky when I meet my first client at 5am and remain in my office until 7pm. I was not lucky to have read all the books, good and bad, to understand what I have. I am not lucky now to be at 5-6% bodyfat at 160 pounds as I used to weigh around 225 pounds. I have earned or dealt with every single thing that has been part of my life, but luck had nothing to do with it.

I used to think that maybe it was a person's way of giving me a pat on the back, all be it lightly. I now do not think so at all, and think that most have other reasons for it. I think the main reason is to take away your hard work and effort, your pride. These type of people are always making statements like, "I wish I was as lucky as you". These people want the reward without the means that it took to get it. These type of people think that it is unobtainable and are looking for an excuse for not being able to achieve the same thing, or better. These type of people want the non-effort million or billion, they want the lucky lottery million.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But looking ahead, it's very important to catch opportunities.  One definition of luck:  opportunity meets preparation.

In a very difficult passage (Book II, Chapters 4-6) of his Physics, Aristotle distinguishes chance from luck. The distinction is not completely clear to me, but his description is thought-provoking. Following is my understanding.

An example of chance would be: A boulder, partly embedded in a hillside, becomes dislodged, rolls down the hillside, and stops in a position with the flat side up. That position happened by chance, that is, was caused by factors other than the intentions of anyone passing by and feeling weary enough to look for a seat.

Chance happens to inanimate things and to nonhuman animals. Yes, there were particular causes at work (gravity, erosion, an earth tremor, and a gopher burrowing underneath, for example). But the flat-side-up position happened by chance in relation to man.

An example of luck would be this: Mr. X owes you money. Today you are driving to your local supermarket. While shopping there, you meet Mr. X. You remind him of the debt and he pays you what he owes you, right there. You chose to go to the supermarket, a place to which both you and Mr. X seldom go. Your intention was to shop. By luck you met Mr. X and recovered the debt.

You could have gone looking for Mr. X in his usual places, found him, and collected the debt. But instead, wanting to shop, you went to the store -- where you collected your debt. Lucky for you. Luck happens to humans.

It is this sort of perspective on "luck" that perhaps has led to the partly polemical (in self-defense) and partly humorous modern definition I have heard from professional sales engineers in the electronics industry: "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity."

In full form, that statement would be: Luck is my preparation meeting an unexpected opportunity encountered while I was taking some purposeful action.

A person who buys a lottery ticket, carefully stores it in a safe place, and studiously follows the reports of winning numbers is in luck if his number comes up and he receives the winnings. But his number came up by chance.

Aristotle doesn't say so explicitly, but I infer that he sees "luck" and "chance" as relational concepts. That is, they implicitly identify a certain relation (or lack of it) between some events and human purpose (or lack of it) in certain circumstances.

If all this business is fully explained, it might be acceptable to say that Paul Allen was "lucky" to meet Bill Gates. But why do so? Why not focus on the factors within one's control? Taking purposeful action, seeing and understanding opportunities as they arise, and taking full advantage of them. That is virtue, not luck in the sense of merely stumbling on values as if they were rocks on the sidewalk in the dark of night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In a very difficult passage (Book II, Chapters 4-6) of his Physics, Aristotle distinguishes chance from luck....

Before discussing this interesting subject, what particular word in Aristotle's writings here are you translating as "luck?" Also, would you please show some of the surrounding context in this translation of "luck."

I note in the translation I use (R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye), Book II, Chapter 4 opens with:

But chance also and spontaneity are reckoned among causes: many things are said both to be and to come to be as a result of chance and spontaneity. We must inquire therefore in what manner chance and spontaneity are present among the causes enumerated, and whether they are the same or different, and generally what chance and spontaneity are.

And then "fortune" is used in Chapters 5 and 6.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What a bibliographic adventure this evening has been!

Before discussing this interesting subject, what particular word in Aristotle's writings here are you translating as "luck?"

I am not doing any translating. I do not have on hand, at home, the Greek text for Physics. I have been using Terence Irwin and Gail Fine's Aristotle: Selections for the passages from Physics that I mentioned.

About the Greek words that would give rise to "luck" and "chance" (or "chance" and "spontaneity"), I can offer a conjecture (which you can compare to the Greek text). My conjecture arises (shakily) from the very detailed notes in the glossary in Irwin and Fine, plus index listings for "luck" and "chance" (but none for "spontaneity") in the second of the two Loeb Library volumes for the Physics (which I examined a few minutes ago in my local mega-bookstore -- the first volume, covering the specified passage, is missing from their collection unfortunately).

My conjecture is:

- My "luck" (your "chance") = tuchE.

- My "chance" (your "spontaneity") = to automaton

Also, would you please show some of the surrounding context in this translation of "luck." [...] I note in the translation I use (R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye), Book II, Chapter 4 opens with:
But chance also and spontaneity are reckoned among causes: many things are said both to be and to come to be as a result of chance and spontaneity. We must inquire therefore in what manner chance and spontaneity are present among the causes enumerated, and whether they are the same or different, and generally what chance and spontaneity are.

So that we can make a comparison, here is the opening of Irwin and Fine's Bk. II, Ch. 4:

Luck and chance are also said to be causes, and many things are said to be and to come to be because of them. We must, then, investigate how luck and chance are included in the causes we have mentioned, whether luck is or is not the same as chance, and, in general, what they are.

You also note:

And then "fortune" is used in Chapters 5 and 6.

In the Irwin and Fine selections I have for Chs. 5 and 6, the word "fortune" does not appear, but "luck" and "chance" do.

I note also that in his overview of Aristotle's philosophy, Aristotle the Philosopher, p. 39, J. L. Akrill, whose work I generally trust, uses "luck" and "chance" in describing II.4-6.

Also, my Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek Dictionary lists:

- For tuchE = "the good which man obtains by the favor of the gods, good fortune, luck, success, fortune, chance," plus more specialized uses.

- For automaton, to (with the article, as a noun phrase) = "mere chance" and "by chance, naturally" (but note that the Latin equivalent is sponte!); however, the adjectival form, automatos, -a, -on, translates as "acting of one's own will" (said of people), "self-moving, spontaneous" (said of things), and "without apparent cause, accidental."

So, this is a classic situation wherein the translator for sure must decide the whole passage's meaning in Greek before selecting an appropriate English word for a key term. No word-for-word translation here is safe.

Is that enough information to continue the discussion? I don't have anything else to offer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What a bibliographic adventure this evening has been! ...

Is that enough information to continue the discussion? I don't have anything else to offer.

Thanks, Burgess. All very interesting. However, I am now even more confused as to Aristotle's intended meaning. I respect Terence Irwin but I do not have his translation. Perhaps, if you do not mind, two more quotes for comparison would be helpful.

The penultimate paragraph from Hardie and Gaye's translation of Chapter 5:

Chance or fortune is called 'good' when the result is good, 'evil' when it is evil. The terms 'good fortune' and 'ill fortune' are used when either result is of considerable magnitude. Thus one who comes within an ace of some great evil or great good is said to be fortunate or unfortunate. The mind affirms the essence of the attribute, ignoring the hair's breadth of difference. Further, it is with reason that good fortune is regarded as unstable; for chance is unstable, as none of the things which result from it can be invariable or normal.

The beginning of Chapter 6:

They differ in that 'spontaneity' is the wider term. Every result of chance is from what is spontaneous, but not everything that is from what is spontaneous is from chance.

Chance and what results from chance are appropriate to agents that are capable of good fortune and of moral action generally. Therefore necessarily chance is in the sphere of moral actions. This is indicated by the fact that good fortune is thought to be the same, or nearly the same, as happiness, and happiness to be a kind of moral action, since it is well-doing. Hence what is not capable of moral action cannot do anything by chance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[...] two more quotes for comparison would be helpful.

Irwin and Fine, next to last paragraph, Bk. II, Ch. 5:

Luck is called good when something good results, bad when something bad results; it is called good and bad fortune [note 1] when the results are large. That is why someone who just misses great evil or good as well <as someone who has it> is fortunate or unfortunate; for we think of him as already having <the great evil or good>, since the near miss seems to us to be no distance. Further, it is reasonable that good fortune is unstable; for luck is unstable, since no result of luck can be either always or usually the case.

Note 1 -- "Luck #3" in the Glossary: "In ethical contexts (cf. Phys. 197a25-30) tuchE refers to what is outside an agent's rational control; this need not be a matter of chance or coincidence in any other sense. "Here 'fortune' is used (and 'good fortune' for eutuchia) ...."

So, I was wrong. Irwin and Fine do use "fortune" -- as well as "luck" and "chance."

Irwin and Fine, the first lines of Bk. II, Ch. 6:

Chance is not the same as luck, since it extends more widely; for results of luck also result from chance, but not all results of chance result from luck. For luck and its results are found in things that are capable of being fortunate and in general capable of action, and that is why luck must concern what is achievable by action. A sign of this is the fact that good fortune seems to be the same or nearly the same as being happy, and being happy is a sort of action, since it is doing well in action. Hence what cannot act cannot do anything by luck either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, this is a classic situation wherein the translator for sure must decide the whole passage's meaning in Greek before selecting an appropriate English word for a key term. No word-for-word translation here is safe.

hi Burgess!

Gosh, yes, I agree. In no way am I an Aristotle scholar, but from these passages it seems to me that one would need to be rather like an Ayn Rand to read and understand them as intended. I find them unconcretized and thus floating but interesting-sounding.

What words would we wish to differentiate? Are "chance" and "luck" the ones?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
With this characterization of "luck," I suppose Edison and Ford were lucky. What then would you call a person who wins the lottery?

[smile] Yes, of course what I offered wasn't a true "definition." What do we call these?

I like them a lot, and I find them very helpful; those aphorisms or witty sayings or [?]. Miss Rand said for example that happiness is non-contradictory joy. However, I do believe that definition didn't make it into the Glossary of Objectivist Definitions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Paul at the time, early 1970's, had already been working with computers for a while and showed Bill a passion that he also chose.  I would not call Paul Allen lucky, he earned it.  He might not be the genius of Bill Gates, but you do not fall into billions of dollars.  (If I am wrong here, please correct me, I read Bill's story long ago.) 

.....These type of people [ones who say it's 'luck'] want the non-effort million or billion, they want the lucky lottery million.

Ray, have you read the article on wealth which we are discussing? Are you aware that it was written by a man much wealthier than probably all of us discussing this issue? Do you understand that he is not at all talking about luck to make $1M but luck to make $1B, and that those three extra zeroes might make a difference?

I'm asking you these questions, but they apply equally to the other authors who posted, also apparently attacking Mr. Graham.

Also, as I mentioned above, please contrast clearly the two cases of

1.attributing luck to a FUTURE outcome [as Mr. Graham does]

2.attributing luck to a PAST occurrence [which the envy-horde does]

What I personally object to, very strongly, is putting Paul Graham in any kind of a looter or luck-promoter or envious-person category. He clearly is a hero and understands the heroic level of effort required for wealth. Here is an excerpt:

Startups are not magic. They don't change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars' worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can't evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.

Millions, not Billions

If $3 million a year seems high to some people, it will seem low to others. Three million? How do I get to be a billionaire, like Bill Gates?

So let's get Bill Gates out of the way right now. It's not a good idea to use famous rich people as examples, because the press only write about the very richest, and these tend to be outliers. Bill Gates is a smart, determined, and hardworking man, but you need more than that to make as much money as he has. You also need to be very lucky.

There is a large random factor in the success of any company. So the guys you end up reading about in the papers are the ones who are very smart, totally dedicated, and win the lottery. Certainly Bill is smart and dedicated, but Microsoft also happens to have been the beneficiary of one of the most spectacular blunders in the history of business: the licensing deal for DOS. No doubt Bill did everything he could to steer IBM into making that blunder, and he has done an excellent job of exploiting it, but if there had been one person with a brain on IBM's side, Microsoft's future would have been very different. ....If IBM hadn't made this mistake, Microsoft would still have been a successful company, but it could not have grown so big so fast. Bill Gates would be rich, but he'd be somewhere near the bottom of the Forbes 400 with the other guys his age.

Notice that his usage of the word "luck" is similar to Miss Rand's explanation of how emergency ethics is not a good way to reason about ethics. You don't take a lifeboat scenario and "prove" how to live a good normal non-lifeboat life.

Similarly, Mr. Graham says one cannot ask "how do I become a billionaire?" That question is faulty, because there is some chance [of the two words, I prefer chance to luck] to that case. Instead, ask "how can I become a millionaire?" Then, do what's required for that. If you become a billionaire in the process, great, more power to you.

Thus, Mr. Graham states that Mr. Gates clearly would be rich, but probably in the millions, not the billions, if it hadn't been for that one contract.

I just read an interesting quote by President Lincoln from the Jan. 2005 Smithsonian magazine that I find relevant.

http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsoni...06/lincoln.html ']"Fellow-citizens," he said in his annual message to Congress in December [1865], "we cannot escape history.  We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves.  No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us.  The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.

Note; There is a book titled We Cannot Escape History, by McPherson

http://www.neh.gov/whoweare/mcpherson/bookexcerpts.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another interesting quote from the Jan. 2005 Smithsonian magazine that I find relevant. http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsoni.../indelible.html

The photograph referred to as The Kings of Hollywood is here; http://www.photographersgallery.com/main.asp?catid=101

Of the many holidays Americans celebrate, none is half so glamorous—I may be going back a few years here—as New Year's Eve, when we break out the best of our wardrobes as if to show the arriving future that we haven't lost a step during the year just past. And no image of New Year's Eve is more glamorous than the picture taken by Slim Aarons of four great film leading men at Romanoff's restaurant in Hollywood on the last day of 1957. ....

four friends on top of their glittering world, at home in white tie and chic surroundings and so clearly at ease with one another.....

Not all stars of the '50s were he-men, of course, but these screen kings, besides playing heroes, had what today might be called "street cred." Stewart, who had already won an Academy Award in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story, piloted a B-24 on 20 combat missions over Germany. Gable joined the Army in his 40s and also flew in bombers over Germany, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. Heflin served in the Army field artillery, and though Cooper wasn't in the military, he visited hazardous areas of the Pacific making personal appearances for the troops. These men knew that Aarons had earned his spurs with the Army, as a combat photographer who had been wounded at Anzio in Italy and had recorded action on the front lines throughout the European theater for Yank magazine. ....

He [Mr. Aarons] told friends he wanted to make a career of photographing "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places."....

Full disclosure: A print of this picture hangs on my office wall. But I keep it behind my desk, so I'm not facing it. If I saw it too often, I might grow resentful at the way things are now.

by Owen Edwards

Mr. Edwards, author of the article, appears to believe that he can't live in a world of white tux and tails. He seems envious and ends up apparently attributing it to luck that those men lived in a bygone era.

Yet we here know, that world exists today. I have certainly lived it, and I plan to do so again and again... It's definitely not luck!

p.s.

Unfortunately, my favorite photo from the article is not on the photos website. It looks like a beautiful woman, her son, a large dog, and a small dog enjoying the day at California's Hearst Castle with its man-made pool, columns, and ocean. I wish I knew the photo's name! If it is Hearst Castle, it's the first photo taken of it the way I believe it should be seen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Elizabeth,

Have you read the histories of wealthy people, such as J.D. Rockefeller Sr., Henry Ford Sr., Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, James J. Hill, Charles Schwab (the original), John Jacob Astor, Henry Crapo, William Durant, Herbert Dow or Will Kellogg?

Lets start with just one from above, J.D. Rockefeller. J.D. Rockefeller's father left John and his family when John was just 15. He had been leaving them all of John's life but this time it was for good. John had to quit school so that he could go to work. John's first job was as a bookkeeper, where he made $500 a year, luck I guess! By the age of 18 he had saved and borrowed so that he could go in partnership in a company. The partnership cost him $2,000 to buy into. This equals around $35,000 in todays equivalent, by an 18 year old. He worked long hours daily learning every aspect of his company. By the age of 25 he bought out his partners for $72,000 dollars, the equivalent of around $500,000 today. Just imagen being that much in debt at the age of 25, and someone telling you that your lucky. He later turned that company into what people know today as Standard Oil. At the height of his income he was worth almost a billion dollars, this was in the early 1900's, luck I guess.

There are many more like this in America's history. I would not call it lucky to do what J.D. Rockefeller accomplished, because many more with a better or equal start did not accomplish what he did. I would ask that you read some biographies of some great industrialist and then tell me where in there 18-20 hour days luck fits in.

What is behind wealth of this magnitude? Reason, desire, insight, vision and the self-confidence to take the risk. Henry Ford toward the end of his life once said, "if the government came in and took all my wealth, I could create it again but faster." Does that sound like a man that thinks luck had any part to play in his wealth.

Finally, the comments from my earlier post were not directed at Paul Graham. They were directed toward people such as the one's that I mentioned in my example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Irwin and Fine, next to last paragraph, Bk. II, Ch. 5: ...

Irwin and Fine, the first lines of Bk. II, Ch. 6: ...

Thanks again for the comparison quotes, Burgess. Alas, rather than clarifying the issue for me, I am now even less sure of Aristotle's meaning. Though these sections were incidental to my main purpose in reading Physics, when I first read them I did find them of some interest and I pondered the ideas for a while. I now see that for me there are enough subtleties and ambiguities involved that the effort needed to untangle the meaning would require more time and effort than the subject is worth to me. So, sorry to have you expend some effort only for me to leave the subject flat.

However, so that it is not a total loss, I do want to acknowledge that, regardless of Aristotle's meaning, your words in the following quote are beautifully expressed, and I agree with them.

If all this business is fully explained, it might be acceptable to say that Paul Allen was "lucky" to meet Bill Gates. But why do so? Why not focus on the factors within one's control? Taking purposeful action, seeing and understanding opportunities as they arise, and taking full advantage of them. That is virtue, not luck in the sense of merely stumbling on values as if they were rocks on the sidewalk in the dark of night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites