Luck or Skill?

It’s a small world, and I happen to know two of the Lyft executive team members. They joined when the company was at a later stage and helped it scale to the IPO. I’m happy for them.

At dinner with a few of my children, we talked about the IPO and how a sudden rainfall of wealth can be life changing.

I’m in my 22nd year as a GP in venture capital, and I’ve seen a number of companies go public, usually involving other VCs’ investments, but also, a few of my own.

I’m not sure why it is, but sudden wealth can be very life-altering in ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, a friend of mine was at a large company that went public; most of the executives, in rapid succession, filed to divorce their spouses.

As for me, I’ve seen new money affect people in very different ways. For some, they became different, much more confident certainly, and, in a few cases, downright transformed.

Their houses changed, their cars changed, they acquired new friends in high net-worth circles and took on expensive hobbies. In very few cases, they seem to have become entirely different people altogether.

“I guess it depends on how you view luck and skill,” one of my children said. “Luck is a part of everything, but if you attribute your success mostly to skill, then you’ll see yourself differently.”

Luck or skill is an age-old question. Many of us, including me, attribute bad outcomes to bad luck; we also attribute positive outcomes to our high level of skills. I suppose there’s a form of confirmation bias in there.

There really is something about money. It most definitely is a two-sided coin. And, I think an exit where the price is announced or where an IPO happens, can be tough. People now can peg your net worth, and you (and, your kids) no longer are anonymous.

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