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Success and Luck


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Table of Contents

Preface xi Acknowledgments xix 1 Write What You Know 1 2 Why Seemingly Trivial Random Events Matter 21 3 How Winner-Take-All Markets Magnify Luck's Role 40 4 Why the Biggest Winners Are Almost Always Lucky 56 5 Why False Beliefs about Luck and Talent Persist 69 6 The Burden of False Beliefs 86 7 We're in Luck: A Golden Opportunity 109 8 Being Grateful 128 Appendix 1: Detailed Simulation Results for Chapter 4 151 Appendix 2: Frequently Asked Questions about the Progressive Consumption Tax 158 Notes 173 Index 183

About the Author

Robert H. Frank is the H. J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell University's Johnson School of Management. He has been an Economic View columnist for the New York Times for more than a decade and his books include The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip J. Cook), The Economic Naturalist, The Darwin Economy (Princeton), and Principles of Economics (with Ben S. Bernanke). He lives in Ithaca, New York.


Honorable Mention for the 2017 PROSE Award in Economics, Association of American Publishers One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016 One of Bloomberg View's "Five Books to Change Conservatives' Minds," chosen by Cass Sunstein Longlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2016 "The reminder about the important role of luck is welcome."--Enlightened Economist "Frank is not just arguing that luck plays an important role in the lives of successful people such as Al Pacino. If that were all he was doing, his book would be engaging but trivial. But it is much more interesting than that."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution "Frank's book gives a compelling argument for why we should consider our collective needs more when we look to change society for the better."--Jill Suttie, Psy.D., Greater Good "Well reasoned, coherent, and compelling--Frank is one of the great writers of economics."--Fortune "The most striking of Frank's arguments is a computer-simulated proof of luck's importance, even in very nearly meritocratic situations."--Tim Smith-Laing, Daily Telegraph "Reading Success and Luck is almost like having a robust conversation over dinner--a simple premise, some explanation, a few examples... It is commendable that he is addressing the problem with an actual solution in mind."--Kris Rothstein, Bookslut "Frank makes his points persuasively."--Australian Financial Review "This is a bold vision and, although controversial, has a good deal more realism than the dangerous siren calls from the left for wage caps or punitive income tax rates for high earners."--Matthew Syed, The Times "Like any good economist, Frank backs up his argument with studies and statistics; and like any good behavioral economist, he investigates why this obvious fact is so hard for so many Americans to accept, and offers some strategies for overcoming that resistance."--Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing "Frank points out that for every big winner, there are scores of people who are as skilled, hard-working and intelligent, but came in just behind. The lack of a lucky break can be the difference between wild success and a near miss or worse."--Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg View "Success and Luck is an important book: elegantly written, well argued and desisting from self-indulgence in its length."--Tim Wigmore, New Statesman "The book is diverting and easy to read... He makes a compelling case for the role of luck in much of the wealth held by people in developed societies."--Ouida Taaffe, Financial World "[An] occasionally humorous, yet most insightful book."--David Marx Book Reviews "Robert Frank's enjoyable treatise, Success and Luck, might be the better bet for fixing society. His case histories show that while winners often need talent and hard work to succeed, they also need simple, dumb luck."--Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist "How important is luck in monetary success?... Is luck as important as hard work in becoming successful?... These important questions--we ponder them often--that economists rarely bother to study. Except for one of my favourite economists Robert Frank."--Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald "What makes Success and Luck different is that Frank connects the importance of luck in determining personal economic success with a set of larger policy recommendations."--Dr. Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed "Success and Luck is written in a clear, engaging and personable style, not least because it is littered with anecdotes and stories illustrating the huge effects that tiny chance events can have. I found examples from Frank's own life especially compelling."--Dan McArthur, LSE Review of Books "Though hard work, effort, and schooling are important factors, Frank demonstrates convincingly that pure, random luck also matters (a lot)... This book is well reasoned, coherent, and compelling--Frank is one of the great writers of economics."--Choice

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