As N2Taleb has often pointed out, much of success is determined by randomness, and nowhere more so than in the entertainment industry. The current crop of stars are where they are largely due to being lucky. Being in the right place and time to get noticed by the right person, having the right mix of qualities to capture public interest, and just enough talent not to blow it.
Having climbed to the top of the entertainment pyramid, it’s natural to wonder why you’ve succeeded while thousands of equally talented waiters and models have not. Compounded by the fickle nature of the consuming public, this form of survivor guilt gnaws at the soul, demanding an explanation, and the truth of randomness is rarely emotionally satisfying.
Humans assume agency behind almost everything that happens. When no obvious or satisfying culprit leaps to mind, it’s frequently a god-like being or cosmic principle seen to be lurking behind the curtain of causality. In this way, chanting a certain way, karma, The Secret, lizard aliens, doing god’s work, or any number of other “reasons” can be marshaled in defense of success.
With such a justification in hand, everything makes sense again. The sudden fame and wealth is no longer random and meaningless, but earned and therefore entirely deserved. The need for a Lindsay Lohan approach to coping is mitigated. The sad sack losers still toiling away in obscurity have no one to blame but themselves for failing to embrace the same beliefs. With the psychological salve of celebrity religions the world is again as it should be. The illusion of control is reestablished in a fickle world, and life is good.
Personally, I’ve always preferred a more reasoned approach. Should I be afflicted by great wealth or fame, I understand that life has a very large random component and I’m fine with giving luck the credit…and as long as I keep putting my socks on in the same order and eating sour cream and onion potato chips every third Tuesday, I’m sure I’ll continue to have it.