There is a humorous saying in English “The grass is always greener on the other side of the valley.” The saying is used ironically to point out that there is a temptation in us all to insist that others are more fortunate than we are. This is nowhere more truly than on the question of luck and hard work. When faced with the “bad times,” we often comfort in the idea that we are special in our degree of misfortune. I feel that such an attitude is negative, and that it can bring only further misfortune.
Many famously successful people have begun from small origins. Mao was the son of a (modestly prosperous) peasant; the explorer Captain Cook was so poor that, as a child, he had to work by day and study by night; many of the affluent Americans of today are the children of the poor immigrants of yesterday. Beethoven, it should be remembered, became deaf before the end of his career. There are many, many more people who have also made genuine, though Jess spectacular, successes against the odds.
Within his own terms, a person who is born into poverty in India is a great success if he manages to own a house in later life. Poverty cannot be reduced by merely complaining and blaming others; no matter how guilty other people are, each individual must reach out to success for himself. Indeed, some economists believe that the world operates by what they call “the rule of the jungle.” They believe that in economics a person always attempts to gain profit from his neighbor: that given the chance the poor man would quickly make himself rich by trading to his own advantage.
Also, it is presumptuous to judge another according to his or her apparent fortune. No man can even truly understand the sufferings of his neighbor. A man who appears comfortably rich may have suffered elsewhere in his life-through the death of a loved one, for example. Retired businessmen have often worked long hours in their youth. Surely, it must be wiser to respect achievement that to deny that anyone has achieved good in the world.
To rely on notions of luck – to believe that life is a kind of lottery – is an attempt to escape reality. Paradoxically, the only time a person can claim that luck is more important than work is when he reflects on his own success. Because of that modesty, the great man then becomes even greater.