In this fascinating NPR story “Good Art Is Popular Because It’s Good. Right?” the question is asked,
Why Is The Mona Lisa – Or Any Piece Of Art – Successful?
Quoting from the piece…
“The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world because people believe that there is something profoundly special about it, some quality so distinguishing that it deserves to be as famous as it is.
But is that true?
Several years ago, Princeton professor Matthew Salganik started thinking about success, specifically about how much of success should be attributed to the inherent qualities of the successful thing itself, and how much was just chance.”
The article goes on to explain the experiment professor Salganik conducted to find the answer (the study is quite interesting – I recommend reading the NPR story).
What did he find?
It is hard to make things of very poor quality succeed — though after you meet a basic standard of quality, what becomes a huge hit and what doesn’t is essentially a matter of chance.
Did you catch that?
It’s hard to make something crappy become successful (take note, reality TV singing competitions).
But if you meet just a basic standard of quality with your work, what will become successful and what doesn’t is determined by chance. It’s a crapshoot. Dumb luck.
If we had another go at it – like, we were able to reboot the entire world and everyone who ever lived in it for a do-over – it’s safe to say the Mona Lisa would NOT be the most famous painting.
How does that make you feel?
Most likely a bit conflicted. We often question the worthiness of certain successful artists and their creations (I have a list of singers and songs going through my mind right now). However, we also like to think our own successes are earned and deserved.
It’s not fun to acknowledge that any success we might ever attain will only be because of dumb luck.
Rather than getting all depressed about the luck-and-success connection, I prefer to make the case for loving the work (that you do) instead of loving success.
If you love success, well… I hope you’re lucky.
But if you love the work, if you enjoy your craft, if you delight in the process and find what you’re doing to be the reward – then it will all be worth it.
Question: What is your reaction to the luck-and-success connection?