Great People or Great Circumstances

If you read enough biographies of famous and successful people1 it becomes painfully obvious that the greatest people all got incredibly lucky in their circumstances.

Not in that they born rich or well-connected, but that they were in a place where something could happen.

Steve Jobs’ career would have been very different if he hadn’t been adopted by parents living in Silicon Valley.

Napoleon wouldn’t be a name without coming of age during the French Revolution.

FDR would be just another president with the Great Depression and WWII. Same with Lincoln.

Alexander Hamilton would have been a nobody if he hadn’t gotten off his native island in the West Indies.

To be clear: all these people were very talented and made the most of their opportunity.

But we wouldn’t know their names if dumb luck didn’t give them a chance to be somebody.


  1. Are there biographies of non-famous and unsuccessful people? Maybe internal family biographies?