Is success luck of the draw?

Rae Hamilton asked me a few questions for this interview.

King of ClubsPhoto by OKNOVOKGHT

Here’s one.

Rae: There are certainly instances where people with (arguably) less talent, become creative icons, and people with incredible skills never make it past that 9-5 Art Director title. Do you believe there is a factor that leads a designer to be successful or not successful, or is it essentially the luck of the draw? Perhaps earning one big client, landing one significant interview, or meeting one right person?

Me: All our successes have an element of “right place, right time.” Some people are more adept at knowing where to be, and what to say. Others take a bit longer getting where they want to go. It’s no bad thing that there’ll always be designers who are much more skilled than I am. It gives me something to aspire to, even if that skill level happens to remain out of reach. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be as good as everyone else. Neil Gaiman said it better than I in a 2012 speech, referring to how people attract new business:

“…because their work is good, and because they’re easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.

“People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time.

“People will forgive the lateness of your work if it’s good and they like you.

“And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

Read the rest of the Q&A on Design Sellout.

7 responses

  1. Great little piece of interview, and thanks for linking to Design Sellout. It looks like a great site, going to add it to my Feedly account now.

  2. I absolutely agree with it being right place at the right time. It’s also about knowing the right people. When he quotes Neil Gaiman’s speech and it mentions, “People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time”, this may be true but that first impression can prevent you from even seeing how good their work is and how punctual they really are. Interesting blog post.

  3. Interesting subject. I’d say it’s a combination of things, with hard work and talent being the main reasons certain folks rise to the top. I think other factors include: being personable, knowing how to market one’s self, possessing a strong work ethic and being in the right place at the right time. Hell…I’m sure looks even play into it.

  4. In my opinion, luck triumphs all. No matter how prepared, how talented, how hopeful we are… sometimes there aren’t enough places remaining for the talented many. We HAVE to be lucky (right situation, right time) to get what we want. Not saying talent doesn’t matter, but luck is the tipping factor.

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