Greedy Goblin

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I got no luck lol

Another post in my series about the "magical skill people". In my previous post I posted this graph as a summary of what I think about the top 20% having 80%:
One of the characteristics of the two Gaussians is that the variance of the "magical people" are much smaller. It's a common thing. If you look at the logs of a hard mode guild, you see pretty similar DPS numbers. Of course someone must be #1 and #15 but their difference is small. On the other hand in a "freindly heplfull" guild #1 is usually 3-400% higher than #15. Why?

I've never seen a successful person talk about luck or unluck, just well earned success or deserved failure. On the other hand the losers deeply believe in "luck" as a crucial factor in success. And they are right! If they would just made this "luck" thing up as an excuse for lack of skill or effort, they would be equal failures. Yet some of them are pretty OK, most of them are mediocre and only small part of them are utter failures. Such high variance is really the product of random events, aka "luck".

I'd like to show how this belief in luck is a proof of the lack of skill to the point of defining factor: "If you need luck, you have no skill". At first an easily understandable example: the same person shows very high variance in subsequent Northrend beasts fights. On some tries he excels and one of the top 3 DPS. Other fights he dies early. Sometimes he wipes the raid. Since he is the same person, with the same skill set in the same fight, we must accept that the outcome is the product of luck. But a peek into the logs shows that:
  • If he gets no paralytic poison, he excels in the fight
  • If he gets paralytic poison, he dies
  • If tank gets paralytic poison and he gets burning bile, the raid wipes
Well, getting poison or bile is random. If he is lucky, he does not get it and he excels. On the other hand a skilled player can handle poison and survive bad luck. So his performance will have much smaller variance. Granted it will still vary with luck as nuking standing gives higher DPS than running to the bile guy and back. But the variance is definitely smaller.

The skilled person is capable of handling bad luck, the unfortunate circumstances, dumping their outcome. The unskilled can still excel in optimal conditions, but fails terribly otherwise. However his memories of successes and the real presence of bad conditions makes him strongly believe that the recent failure is not his fault but the product of "bad luck".

So I claim: Hearing a man blaming luck is seeing a loser.

Why is it important? Because of the "ultimate luck" that socialists blame for being rich or poor: "were you born rich or poor". No doubt, that's totally out of the newborn child's control. However lot of people elevated from poverty to riches to prove that it's possible. Among the "ordinary" people only the lucky ones get (relatively) rich: they born in a rich family, get good education and do some high-end, but still grindy job for nice (but not spectacular) salary. For example general practicing doctor, lawyer (not a star, just the guy who represent average Joe in his divorce), middle manager in some factory and so on. Those who have average luck and born in a lower-middle class family, will get a blue-collar or low-white collar job and remain average. Those who born in poverty die in poverty.

But the "magical" people elevate against all odds. Granted, those who are unlucky have harder job and may not elevate that high. But they still elevate high above their parents and above the country average.


Michael said...

Your example suggests that this "magical" quality could be the ability to deal well with bad situations/circumstances/luck.

eg. during back economic times most people suffer a bit, some people suffer a lot, some people profit a lot.

Some people handle lifes inevitable setbacks much better than others. Many successful entrepreneurs took several attempts to "get lucky".

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...

I was thinking about this the other day.

At first, I was thinking that the 'Magical thing' was financial knowledge... and while that's all well and good, what it really comes down to is learning from your mistakes.

People that succeed make a LOT of mistakes. They fail and they get their asses handed to them. They try strategies that, in the light of day, are exposed as foolish.

They then learn from these mistakes. There is no luck for these people, just the applied correction of mistakes.

Losers, on the other hand, cannot make mistakes. Their self image prevents it. Since they cannot make mistakes, they are, therefore, "Already doing it right". As such, the only thing left is luck.

Jormundgard said...

Do you believe the "magic people" are successful because of their personal decisions, and reject of purely social gain, or because of their innate ability/intelligence/whatever talent?

I think you are arguing that the "magic people" distribution is not just an amplification of the consequences of talent, but reflects the minority acting in self-interest ("goblins"), and that the distribution would be more symmetric if everyone chose out of self-interest. Is that correct?

Apologies if I misunderstand and you discussed this in an earlier post.

Gevlon said...

@Jormungard: since there are so many different ways to be successful (you can be rich as Nobel prized scientist or even as potato farmer who drives his on John Dree) I don't think innate talents contribute to success. Of course they contribute to the WAY of success (if you born with 95 IQ, you won't get Nobel).

It is a way of thinking or "meta-skill" that guarantees success. It's learnable, ANYONE can be successful.

Chopsui said...

Gevlon, are you saying this magical ability is to be able to rationally reflect on your own performance? To be able to see where you are not performing up to the level you want, so you know where to improve?

I do know this is something many people lack, and they need to be told what is wrong before they see it. Even then it could take time.

Hmmm... interesting

Gevlon said...

@Chopsui: yes and no. While "being able to see mistakes" is necessary, you can't teach anyone to do it. People either "magically" can do it or not. I believe this skill is a PRODUCT of the "magical skill".

Dalaran Stroll said...

Money wise I've noticed that magical people that makes progress in PVE usually don't have more money than they need for repairs, they scam ah only when they notice that stack of gold is getting low. Though some individuals have "skillz" to sell rune of teleportation for 2g per stack, most of them don't have those skills. When it comes to boss fights I've killed Saurfang with my paladin few times and all of them was with pug. Of course non-aoe part of fight never existed for melee, so what should I do, everyone around me was spamming their aoe abilities trying to reach top of the recount and. I'm suppose watch out for beasts spawn and coordinate lenght of my consecration with beasts respawn cd, no thank you. I know that aoe spamming gives me chance to pick up debuff but let's hope that i will have no such luck.

Vinnz said...

Gevlon : It is a way of thinking or "meta-skill" that guarantees success. It's learnable, ANYONE can be successful.
How is it learnable ? If I'm amongst the unskilled, I probably don't have skills to identify those skills that I really need. I might be willing to learn but I'm bound to choose to learn the wrong skills from another unskilled, which won't help me much.

Anonymous said...

well explained for WoW - failed in RL comparison. in my country the fact "poor or rich born" is a statistical fact. the education system is one of the most discriminating ones in the world, making the system rly bad (in test like PISA etc.) - but nobody changes it.

just google up some facts about school / University in germany...

Gevlon said...

@last anonymous: I already addressed it: I know that rich dad's kid becomes rich. However I believe the rich kid is rich because he inherited his dad's "magical" property, and not because he inherited money.

Anonymous said...

I think rich kid is rich because either has learned from the father the "magical" but more probably he is in no position do endager too much the inherited money/company.

Many of the rich sons of very bright industrials are not on par with their fathers, but it's far easier to run a well-established company than creating one and there are managers/advisors put in place so that when the son takes the reins he doesn't fail catastrophically if not up to the task. He's simply usually not as relevant as his father was.

David Caddock said...

You identified the magical property, Gevlon. It's simply the negative of the lucky/unlucky M&S:

The magical property is the belief that you own your life, have control over it, and a responsibility for your actions and your life's outcome.

The M&S believe their life is controlled by luck, fate, spirits, God. The Goblins/Magical people believe their life is controlled by themselves. They look at their life, their situation, their wants, desires, and goals, and then take the necessary actions to achieve those things. They are in control, and responsible for their own successes and failures, because it was their decisions and actions that led them to this point in their lives.

As an added note, a secondary magical property might be described as risk tolerance. Knowing what it takes to get what you want is one thing, but actually having the guts to do it is what separates the regular from the successful from the super successful. Some things are hard, risky, and/or dangerous to do or undertake, and the ability to actually do it is what is rewarded.

While there is, obviously, more to it than these two qualities, these are the two that separate the Luckies from the Magicals.

Gevlon said...

@David: same as Chopsui. Believing that we are in control of our lives is necessary, but not a skill on its own. Cannot be taught. It's the product of the "magical" ability and very hard to get without it.

Ulsaki said...

"Since he is the same person, with the same skill set in the same fight, we must accept that the outcome is the product of luck."

Not necessarily; the player could simply be very inconsistent. Of course, consistency is part of being a skilled player.

"The skilled person is capable of handling bad luck, the unfortunate circumstances, dumping their outcome. The unskilled can still excel in optimal conditions, but fails terribly otherwise."

I would agree, but skilled players are also capable of maximising their good luck. A skilled player can take advantage of the fact that he was not hit by the paralytic poison, and blow cooldowns to increase his DPS. The unskilled player on the other hand is more likely to blow cooldowns just before he gets hit by the poision. He can still do well under optimal conditions, but not as well as the skilled player.

The "bad luck" defense is partly an excuse by socials to justify their performance much like "I need better gear". But it is also necessary in a way.

A lot of players get hung up on recount and DPS / healing figures, especially in PUGs. Imagine a bad leader who kicks a DPS for his "bad DPS" when he was the only one attacking frozen orbs. Or imagine if a player did get very unlucky and got infected a lot on the Rotface fight. They did their job well, but because these jobs are fairly invisible (other than when the raid wipes due to failing to do them), plenty of bad players will not recognise that you did well. They don't see that you got infected 10 times and did well, they only see your "bad DPS".

Part of the problem with bad players as well is to do with metacognition (Dunning–Kruger effect). They are too bad to notice they are bad.

This is why stupid people usually believe themselves to be intelligent; they are too stupid to realise they are stupid. And because of this, they can't correct their behaviour because they don't realise they are making a mistake.

Intelligent people on the other hand can realise when they are making mistakes, and because of this they can learn from them, and become more successful.

Unfortunately this is not something that can be learned, because if they were able to learn these skills, they wouldn't need to learn them in the first place.

Harrumph said...

Gevlon, it really seems as though you're trying to bump up your followers. You lead the reader on, by rephrasing statements you have already said in another form, with tidbits of new information, while never coming out and saying what you're trying to say.

Bluntly, Say what you have to say, don't dawdle.

Muneyoshi said...

Alan Sugar

From the poor backstreets of the tough East End of London, leaving school at 16 with few if any qualifications, to an estimated fortune of £830 million at age 63 years.

He clearly has the "magical" element that Gevlon posits. He has made a number of mistakes. His prediction about the failure of the ipod being the most glaring. But he's also made a great deal of money in a relatively short period of time.

Okrane S. said...

You know, there's that book of Dale Carnegie about how to train yourself into having success.

But I still do believe you are going to pop a rabbit out of the hat at the end of the series, with an utter obvious and disappointing conclusion such as "Goblinism in the magical quality" and make me realize it was a nice trick to get people interested in the blog again.

Or are you trying to understand the matter yourself and try to learn if there is such a quality?

Gevlon said...

@Okrane: at first, no, Goblinism (cold, selfish rationalism) is not the magical quality, just another product of it. A normal person cannot learn or apply it, despite it's obvious. (I still see AHs without 1 arrows).

I'll pop the rabbit only when I have a proof or at least an ongoing project to get the proof. Anyone can make any claims, opinions are like a@@holes: everyone has one and no one cares about the others.

Justisraiser said...

I'm a big believer in, "the one common thread in all your failed groups is you."

Okrane S. said...

Well, there's a reason why I mentioned Dale Carnegie's book: "How to win friends and influence other people"

In my answer to your first post in the series I asserted that "leadership" (as in the capacity to be above other people) is part of the equation.

Now Dale Carnegie seems to believe that this quality can be taught.

If we are talking successful people in the terms you defined in the last post: managers, ceo-s - the absolut top, 6-figure-salary people to be the magical quality holders and exclude those who have a good pay because of their learned technical skills (engineers, doctors etc) the only thing that remains common to these people is shrewd bussiness and politics skills.

Which goes back exactly to Carnegie's book, which states that everyone can learn to be a good businessman (by learning how to win friends and influence other people)

For Carnegie, the magical quality resides in the way one interacts with the people around him, how he makes them do what he desires. Again, that is leadership.

Okrane S. said...

In any case, magical is a really bad word choice for your topic. Its too childish.

Try Hidden Quality, Misterious Quality, Secret Quality, Intrinsic Quality, Core Quality or whatever else...

Gevlon said...

@Okrane: Dale Carnegie is right and wrong. Yes "to win friends and influence people" is necessary for all kind of success. However he is wrong in trying to teach that (and failed too, since reading his book made no loser one successful, just made successful more successful).

Leadership is another product of the magical skill. (and you are right, it was a bad word choice, but it's too late to change).

Since I use "product of magical skill" too much I'll write a post explaining this.

Wildhorn said...

I think you should make a blogpost with the definition of the different type pf players (M&S, Casual, Hardcore, Social, etc). It seems people confuse the terms alot.

Klepsacovic said...

Belief in luck is comforting to many people, and is not harmful. It is succumbing to luck which is harmful. Anticipating good luck is useful if we set ourselves up to be ready for it and take advantage, but harmful if we use luck as a substitute for planning and preparation.

Eaten by a Grue said...

I bet if we were to graph success in WoW versus success in RL, I bet we would find an inverse relationship, with those most successful in WoW being very unsuccessful in RL. I am sure there would be exceptions, but I think largely this would hold true, since time spent in one precludes time and effort in the other.

So what do we make of this?

thinker said...

Why do you not add motivation into you analysis of the situation. I would be considered a very prosperous person. But I would not have bothered to do all the work if I had not been motivated by personally perceived responsibles to do so.

Anonymous said...

Well, you claim that kids in a rich family will become later rich again and vice versa. Imo you're right, but the explanation of this fact is very simple (way too simple to call it magic)

Imagine boy A, he's 15 years old and he has for example about 500 USD on his account (from family and so).

And there's also a boy B. He is also 15, but he has nothing on his account (poor family).

Let's say you give both of them 50 USD. What will they do?
For boy B its a lot of money, so he will throw a party and buy everything what's nice and useless just to show off and next week he has nothing left from the money.

For guy A its not much, so he will probably transfer it to his account and and have 550 USD. After a week he will still have 550 USD.

Now imagine, after 10 years, they get their salary...

Got it? The 'magical skill' is the skill to know how to use your money. The 'rich kids' are thought it by their parents- AND they have their own money to try it out (+ their already have all what they wanted, so its not appealing to them to waste too much money)

Anonymous said...

"However lot of people elevated from poverty to riches to prove that it's possible. "

I'd like to know a statistic for this claim. In the current economic system, it is absolutely essential that this idea exist, yet it is near impossible for someone actually in poverty to escape it.

The idea is because of their lack of, or lack of correct, social and cultural capital. Everything from "acting white" to being white.

Your term magical seems to be the same as the sociological term of capital, not money but skills and traits that allow a person to be assimilated into the dominate group and therefore succeed.

Tim said...

I have to agree with this. I am playing with my alt. I usually am around 2000-2200 on my alts and higher on my main. I'm not picky when it coems to partners on my alts. I honestly believe I can teach anyone to become good.

On my paladin things are horrific. I have gone through 5 (!) 3v3 teams. They all were not willing to accept that they sucked, that they could improve! They blamed a loss on luck (due to lack of the knowledge I have) even after I told them the first 10-20 matches what went wrong and how to improve. Instead of cc-ing well, moving away when melee came to them, time nukes with trinkets, CS a caster (lol) or use spell steal after constructive suggestions they instead continued to blame it on luck and our opponents being higher rated.

Now I have found a team who is willing to accept that they suck. We have gotten from 1100 MMR to 1700. We still have much to improve on (as do I, it is my alt after all)! But we try to get better at least...

Niz said...

I'm surprised that no one has cited this already:

The definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Some people are lucky in the sense that they are not affected by AoE, some others got lucky because they were affected and didn't die because they did the right thing at the right time (= preparation + opportunity).

Prepare yourself by reading boss strats, finance books, practicing a golf swing, ... and you most probably won't fail when you need to.

Andru said...


God I wish I had someone like you in my team.

I find it hard to rise above 1800 MMR. Even though I played quite a lot of games, I have no idea what is wrong, why I can't do better and what it is I'm missing.

When I asked my top rated paladin in S5 what to do, his answer was "lol, bubble when you're low.' I felt absolutely terrible. Because he couldn't tell me what he was doing better.

Gevlon is right, sometimes even people who have this 'magical quality' don't know what it is.


I'm willing to take that bet. Partly because I believe you're wrong, and partly because it's an unsubstantiated claim with no proof.

wilson said...

@Grue, Andru,

I know a successful lawyer (partner in a major firm) who is an absolutely terrible resto druid. I know a successful raid leader (server first Arthas kill) who lives in a basement apartment with no windows and works at a fast food joint. And I know people who are good WoW-players and have professional success. Gathering enough data to be statistically significant and determine the level of correlation would require a level of effort far greater than I would give enough of a damn to bother with.

That said, WoW is a hobby, just as stamp collecting, square dancing, and tuba playing are hobbies. As an outsider, I see no reason to expect a strong correlation (positive or negative) between success in these activities and success in a career. Therefore, I don't expect one to exist for WoW either.

Sven said...

@Eaten by a Grue

Can I join Andru in taking your bet?

People with "no success in life" may have more free time, but they lack all the other transferrable skills that successful people have, such as problem solving, network building, team working etc.

These far outweigh the benefits you get from time.

Eaten by a Grue said...


It is true I have no data to support my hypothesis. It would be hard to get his data, but maybe a poll of annual incomes of some very high geared Kingslayers from a server? I am not sure what would suffice.

Conversely, how many people do you know that have incomes of $200K or higher play wow at all?

Andru said...


You're clutching at straws.

IIRC, the target demographic for WoW is the young adults, 18 to 25.

It's plainly obvious that you couldn't say that they're sucessful IRL or not, simply because at that age, the differnce between success or failure is not all that great. What would count as success anyway? Be in an University? Left the parents' home? What?

You'd have to follow these people for yet another 10 or 20 years to see.

Anonymous said...

While I absolutely agree with all of this, it would be great if we had some solid evidence to support this theory.

Εφεδρικός said...

So, today we had an interesting discussion inside the guild.
We had planned to crush an alliance raid that, in the end, never arrived.
offcourse, seeing we just had this blog, people started joking about the "bad luck".

Anyways, i actually said, and remain on that, that losing the alliance raid WAS bad luck.

So, to conclude, luck exists. Blaming the luck IS a good strategy under 2 conditions:
1) This is a suprice to you. You didn't know it could happen and, obviously, you couldn't search to find about it
2) You couldn't do anything about it, at all.

Obviously, standing in the fire ISN'T bad luck. Not stopping a raid because it never came IS bad luck.
/end rant

Nils said...

This rediculous. Your magical ability is to have success.

Those who have success have success, because they have magical ability that is 'having success'.

But.. imagine a smart guy: He has to make a decision: Finish his dissertation or apply for a better-paid job now.

Answer me one question:
Do you think that his future success may depend on his choice today? Do you think it is possible that he becomes rich if he takes the job and rather average if he doesn't? Do you think that there is uncertainty in life? Do you think that the universe is pre-determined clockwork?

Evgeny said...

You reading DHH, or DHH reads you :

Andru said...


I can't answer whether the Universe is deterministic or not, but uncertainty exists.

According to the current theory on quantum physics, it would seem that the Universe is non-deterministic.

Nils said...

@ Andru:
I studied that stuff. I am interested in Gevlons opinion ;)

Eric-Wubbo Lameijer said...

In psychological terms, you seem to be talking about the 'locus of control' (what causes the events in my life) - luck or your own skill.

I'd agree though that poor people often lack social and possibly metacognitive skills to succeed in life. Consider the example in Gladwell's 'Outliers' of Robert Oppenheimer versus Chris Langlan; Robert Oppenheimer tried to poison his PhD-supervisor, but was maintained as a PhD-student. Chris Langlan requested to be able to come half an hour later to class, and was kicked out of university. Main difference was not IQ (Langlan's IQ was 190) - simply that Oppenheimer was raised rich by a suave businessman father, and Langlan in a poor family, and had a mostly unemployed alcoholic father/stepfather.

Personally, I think 'How to win friends and...' has worked decently enough for me so far (enabled me for example to handle a student whom many people could not stand), be it not perfectly. But I think that the main problem is that you need to have the proper world-view and belief system to excel in social skills. If you think that all other people are jerks out to get you, whether you have learned that from your parents or have concluded it for yourself, even the best course in social skills won't help, since most people will detect your lack of goodwill, and you're unlikely to be willing to expend the effort of thinking of other people instead of of yourself.

Anyway, keep up the good work, I'm quite curious as to where this series will lead.

Lagardere said...

A bit late, but ... read "Outliers" from Malcom Gladwell. He talks about this.