Thoughts on Warren Buffett, Good Motivation, and Luck

by Elliot Lyons 

The other day, I came across a Forbes interview with Warren Buffett.

There are so many other smart, hardworking people, the interviewer says, “but there’s that element that you can’t quantify, but you know is there.”

“A lot of luck,” Buffett replies. He was lucky to be born in America, white, male, in the 1930s, and had the skills that helped him take advantage of the economic climate.

This got me thinking, because one of the most difficult things in motivation is admitting that we can’t just hustle/grind/finesse everything in our lives to fit how we think they should be.

Sometimes, luck just isn’t on our side. Even if we work hard and try our best, we may still fail to accomplish our dreams. And this is okay, it doesn’t mean we’re losers.

Failure happens, and balancing this reality with helping people reach for something different is an aspect of good, responsible motivation.

Good motivation prepares us if we don’t succeed, because we can’t control everything. It also attunes us to the reality that where we want to go may not be where we need to be.

It’s following the path towards our dreams that we may find out that we actually need to be on another path.

During graduate school, a professor for a seminar on women in Judaism said something I’ll never forget: “If you had told me 10 years ago I’d be a rabbi, teaching Jewish studies, I’d have laughed.”

While she was speaking, I couldn’t help but feel how lucky she felt she was to truly be in her element, because standing before a classroom wasn’t a given.

All of this can be confusing because at the one end there’s the type of luck that keeps us from accomplishing our dreams, and at the other there’s the type that pushes us into them.

What can be even more confusing is that both types are often present simultaneously, but this is where good motivation comes in handy: it helps us navigate these pushes and pulls, because there will always be elements we can’t quantify.



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