Success: A Result From Hard Work Or Circumstance

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Success: Does It Result from Hard Work or Circumstance?

Nicole Lambright According to Shermer (2017), people do not create their own success, but rather everyone else and every event in people’s lives has created their circumstantial success for them. Child-parent interactions and parent’s use of praise can impact how people view themselves and their capabilities throughout their entire lives. This example of circumstance does impact success, but natural talent, hard work and will, and other such circumstantial luck determines people’s success in life as well.

Reflection of the Article

Shermer (2017) states that a much of a person’s life and success is the result of circumstance and luck. The author lists the luck of being born in the first place, the luck of having loving and nurturing parents who raised that person in a safe neighborhood and healthy environment, provided that person with a high-quality K-12 education and instilled in that person the values of personal responsibility, and the luck of being born at a time in history when that person’s particular aptitudes and passions fit that of the time period as uncontrollable factors that make a template that person’s success. These uncontrollable factors could impact that person’s success in life, and that person could have no claim to them (Shermer, 2017). Both genetic and nongenetic factors make a person. Half of intelligence, having a personality high in openness to experience, conscientiousness and the need for achievement are heritable according to data from behavior genetics. Most nongenetic components stem from environmental and cultural variables provided by other people or circumstances not of a person’s making. Most personal success cannot be claimed to only one person or one factor, but rather success comes from many factors such as talent, hard work, will, and circumstantial luck.

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Impact on Society

Lifelong success stems from child-parent interactions. Depending on how parents praise their children’s efforts, their children may respond a certain way and identify themselves as a hard worker and that they excel in certain activities, or conversely their children will identify themselves negatively and tend to believe they cannot change that trait about themselves. Also, children can develop an incremental motivational framework—where they believe that they can change their abilities and they are not fixed to certain restrictions—or a fixed-ability framework—in which they believe the opposite. Children who hear more process praise may come to believe that their accomplishments stem from effort and deliberate practice, while children who hear more person praise may come to believe that they cannot change their accomplishments and their characteristics are fixed (Gunderson et al., 2013). Targeting process praise can affect success outcomes in life by setting early beliefs that people can change and that challenging tasks provide opportunities to learn. Praising children for specific accomplishments pushes them to work harder in other areas to receive the same praise and sets beliefs that their success is under their control.

Childhood majorly impacts success mindsets that last throughout life. If children learn from very young that they are either smart or not smart, a hard worker or not a hard worker, successful or not successful, and if this belief is reinforced, they will struggle to learn otherwise that their failures do not reflect on them as a person. According to Gunderson (2013), even after five years, the praise that children received when they were toddlers affects their beliefs all throughout childhood. The circumstance of being born into a particular family that praises a child one way or another is completely out of control of that child, but this praise they receive while developing will affect a person’s lifelong success and how far they will ever go.

Relevance to Personal Experience

In some cases, reflecting on how they raised their children, some parents think they used more person praise than they used process praise. They believe the way they praised their child built confidence in their child’s self, and based on descriptions of the types of praise, they believe that they used person praise on their child at toddler age. However, looking at outcomes in that child’s life, the current child’s beliefs that they can change their success and capabilities contradicts the finding that person praise creates the belief that that child cannot change their accomplishments or characteristics, but that may be due to the parent’s incorrect belief they used person praise more than process praise. Looking at that child’s beliefs, process praise was more likely used during toddler age. However, praise does not impact all of a child’s success in life, as Shermer (2017) states. Personal success attributes to circumstances such as the type of praise received at toddler age, hard work and will, and natural talent.


Success comes from people’s experiences and the beliefs that formed from these experiences. Child-parent interactions lead to growth mindsets or fixed mindsets depending on the kind of praise children received as toddlers. Person praise focuses on encouraging the toddler overall, while process praise encourages a specific activity that the toddler excels in. Process praise creates the belief in toddlers that they can work hard and succeed, while person praise puts labels on children and causes them to identify with every action they do and take away negative habits. Circumstance majorly determines people’s success in life, along with talent, hard work, and will.

  1. References
  2. Shermer, M. (2017). What is the secret of success?. Scientific American, 317(5), 80.
  3. Gunderson, E. A., Gripshover, S. J., Romero, C., Dweck, C. S., Goldin, M. S., & Levine, S. C.
  4. (2013). Parent praise to 1- to 3-year-olds predicts children’s motivational frameworks 5 years later. Child Development, 84(5), 1526–1541.


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