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Ed Smith’s Luck


I’m probably going to have to read some of Ed Smith’s books sooner rather than later. The Guardian reviews his latest book, Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters – a key element for anyone who has made a living in professional sport.

One of Smith’s aims is to challenge the view popularised by writers such as Malcolm Gladwell that what really makes the difference to success is practice and hard work. Smith thinks that downplays the good fortune of those who have the genetic and social advantages to be able to undertake the hard work. This is true enough, but the comparison with Gladwell highlights what’s really wrong with this book. Partly it’s a sense that the genre is starting to cannibalise itself. There is a world of fascinating material out there on luck written by philosophers, novelists, historians – but Smith’s frame of reference is primarily pop psychology books of the past few years. The main problem, though, is that people like Gladwell do it so much better.

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Richard Davies

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