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Third Base

Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on December 13, 2019

5-min read

The Dunning-Kruger effect posits that dumb people are too stupid to know they are dumb. They are not perplexed by difficult situations but overconfident — not knowing what they don’t know. As few people believe they are stupid, or a bad driver, a more relatable component of Dunning-Kruger is incorrectly believing one area of skill translates to another. 

I suffer massively from this. I’m smarter than your average bear when it comes to marketing, so I’ve come to believe that makes me an expert on pretty much anything. I don’t know much about physics but constantly reference Galileo despite knowing little besides the fact that he dared challenge the church. 

There is evidence of this all over the marketplace. Great P/E guys believe they would make great VCs and vice versa. Hedge fund managers believe two years of above-market returns means they are also great operators. To disabuse anybody of this notion, take them to a Sears. Billionaires running for president, actors starting skincare lines, and tech CEOs founding media firms. Being rich also naturally makes you a great film producer. 

Masayoshi Son created $64 billion in shareholder value, mostly through deft acquisitions. Mr. Son can also boast of perhaps the best venture investment in history, $20 million into Alibaba that became $100 billion. That investment is tantamount to Michael Jordan hitting a grand slam on his first at bat wearing a Birmingham Barons hat.

Mr. Son has mistaken luck in venture investing for the ability to responsibly allocate billions based on a gut feeling. The size of SoftBank investments, relative to the diligence, now looks stupid, if not negligent. A writedown on an investment in a dog-walking app may have been avoided had someone in the SoftBank diligence team taken the time to discover they were investing $300 million in … a dog-walking app.

Conflating luck and talent is dangerous. As I get older, I’m struck by how big a part luck played in my life, and how much I mistook it for skill, well into my forties. The Pareto principle shows that even if competence is evenly distributed, 80% of effects stem from 20% of the causes.

Not recognizing your blessings feeds into the dark side of capitalism and meritocracy: the notion that success is a choice, and that those who haven’t achieved success are not unlucky, but unworthy. This leads to regressive policies that further reward the perceived winners and punish the perceived losers based on income level. The most recent example of our belief that poor people are guilty: The US now has the fourth-lowest tax rate in the world, and billionaires have the lowest tax rate of any cohort.

First Base

I constantly humblebrag that I was raised by a single immigrant mother who lived and died a secretary. But truth is I was born on third base. My parents got me to first base before I was born, immigrating to the US. This took courage, desire, and a dose of selfishness. Both left families that needed them. My mom left London when her two youngest siblings were still in an orphanage.

In Europe I’d make much less money being an entrepreneur and challenging institutions. In China I’d likely be in jail. Having one of my companies fail would have bankrupted me in Europe, as the tolerance for risk or failure is scant. I have no idea what would have happened in China. In the US, a tolerance for failure meant a lifestyle my parents couldn’t have imagined crossing the Atlantic on a steamship in 1961. 

Second Base

I have some talent and have worked really hard, but mostly my success is due to being born in the right place at the right time, and being a white heterosexual male. Coming of professional age as a white male in the nineties was the greatest economic arbitrage in history. Today’s 54-to-70-year-olds saw the Dow Jones increase an average of 445% from 25-40, their prime working years. For other ages, it doubles at most.

Economic liberalization (globalization, technology, market deregulation) coupled with social norms that clung to the past meant 31% of America (white males) were given license over a lion’s share of the spoils. In nineties San Francisco, I raised over $100 million for my start-ups. I didn’t know a single woman under 40 who raised more than a million. And it seemed normal. Even today, white men hold 65% of elected offices despite being 31% of the population.

Third Base

Rich, fabulous people are the ideal billboards for luxury brands. Our nation’s best universities have adopted the same strategy. Universities are no longer nonprofits, but the highest-gross-margin luxury brands in the world. Another trait of a luxury brand is the illusion of scarcity. Over the last 30 years, the number of applicants to Stanford has tripled, while the size of the freshman class has remained static. Harvard and Stanford have become finishing school for the global wealthy. 

In the class of 2013 in the Ivy League, five of the eight colleges (Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Brown) had more students from the top 1% of the income scale than the bottom 60%.

Fast and Slow Thinking

According to @thetweetofgod, intelligence looks in the mirror and sees ignorance; ignorance looks in the mirror and sees intelligence. The sectors that have enjoyed the greatest prosperity spread across increasingly few people — technology and finance — have created an unprecedented level of arrogance among people born on third base.

When we feel threatened, we are more prone to see each other as an enemy, rather than someone who has a different opinion. We want to dismiss and fight the whole person, rather than just what they said. From primeval times, our brains have been set up to identify “enemy” or “one of us,” that simple binary distinction. Do I trust them as a person or are they not “one of us.” When we are in our more evolved, slow thinking mode (Daniel Kahneman), we evaluate arguments. When we are in our knee-jerk, threatened fast thinking, we decide the person is our enemy and argue from our amygdala, not our forebrain. 

When we are threatened, we are also less empathic. Altruistic behavior decreases in times of greater income inequality. The rich are more generous in times of lesser inequality and less generous when inequality grows more extreme. When the poor need our help more, we are less likely to offer it, because we don’t see the poor as one of us. They become “them.” 

Michael Lewis writes, “The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen.” 

Old Age

My dad is not doing well. We think it’s dementia, but it’s more just that he’s 89. He has never asked me for much, but he needs me now. I don’t do as much for him as I did for my mom at the end of her life, as I don’t feel the same goodwill toward him — my mother raised me. It’s easier to be generous with him when I look at his life. He was physically abused by his father and had no education. Despite this, his courage and wits (immigrating to America) put his son and daughter on first base.

Life is so rich, 

P.S. Last week I wrote a letter asking the board of Twitter to replace Jack Dorsey. On Wednesday, Mr. Dorsey announced Twitter is possibly moving to an open standard. This is a good strategy. However, assigning five developers to a project with no timeline feels like big-tech delay and obfuscation (“we’re working on it”) and reflects an unwillingness to make the requisite investment of time and resources in open APIs. His other actions confirm he isn’t willing to make the requisite investment of time and resources in Twitter. 



  1. Claire Cowart says:

    Your comment about those who have less being viewed as “unworthy” reminded me of my recent “discussion” with a Wall Street banker who repeatedly declared that a “millionaire’s tax” would be “an attack on success”. I was astounded at the lack of empathy coming from this person who immigrated from a Communist country. While I believe a millionaire’s tax to be a bandaid that will not help low-middle income people, there was zero acknowledgement that 40-50 years of tax and regulatory policies have tipped the scales in favor of the rich – her “success” is not entirely her own. It’s these policies that need to change to enable more people to run the bases!

  2. Robert Rifkin says:

    Great piece. This “dark side of capitalism”and lack of empathy dovetails with my thoughts on how Trump managed to get 70mil votes. In September, in the midst of a global pandemic, according to Gallup, 56% of Americans said that they were better off than 4 years ago. In a pandemic! Where there was no coherent national response! Despite challenges all around us, most of us still had jobs, health insurance and were in good health. And stocks were higher. Only a lack of empathy can explain how so many of us could have voted for the least empathetic politician of all time.

  3. Khushbo says:

    This resonated with me. I just welcomed a child into the world 8 months ago and have been thinking a lot about the sentiments you’ve shared. Our daughter’s arrival, and our new role as parents, led me and my husband to a discussion on variables leading to success. As we explored modern definitions and figures who exemplifies success, we realized how much the “right circumstances” have to do with it. It was humbling as we both see ourselves as intelligent and ambitious, and considered these to be major contributing factors to our current positions in life. Perhaps the American dream has conditioned us all to believe that our actions lead us to success. Certainly, our efforts do lead to some sort of change in our trajectories. But as recorded in Plato’s Apology, Socrates said, “Although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know.” The Oracle of Delphi named him the wisest.


    It’s great to see one so agile in seeing the future And so self-assured in his opinion be so humble and generous in understanding the past.

  5. Deirdre Lovell says:

    Yes indeed Scott, life is soooo rich. I admire your personal introspection and your ability to articulate an idea that stuck with me after watching a film called the Devil’s Advocate. That idea is the insatiable egos of humans who attribute their success to their own endeavors without any understanding of the universal law of cause and effect. So pompous, insensitive and self-centered we become that the effects our decisions/behavior on others have no impact on that decision/behavior. Alec deToqueville said “In a democracy the people get the government they deserve”. Now THAT’s a point of introspection!

  6. carlos henrique ernanny says:

    I wonder where’s the new immigration destiny for those who wish to have better opportunities…The US, it seems, may not be open anymore…

  7. Dmitriy says:

    Immigrating to the US has definitely been a beneficial factor for many people. You are probably right about Europe and China. In Russia they like joking about Elon Musk who with SpaceX basically stripped Russia of one of the few remaining prides that the country had – competitiveness in a space program. The latest joke is: Where would Elon Musk be now if he lived in Russia? He would probably still be in prison serving time for the invention of Paypal.

  8. david says:

    Like everyone else said…you are a treasure. Learn something new every time you post.

  9. olivia cornell says:

    Scott, I am in the jewelry industry and I have heard you speak a few times at different industry events and relish your talks! I always leave inspired to make some change in our business. Thank you for reposting THIRD BASE. My dad, one of 6 never went to college, my mom, one of 3, the only one of her family to go to college – her mom [my grandmother] , worked in a dept store after her husband died at 36. Without my MoM, i would not have gotten to 1st base. My dad didn’t understand the value of a girl going to college. Lucky for me – my mom felt you can get married but always be able to support yourself. I am a member of Vistage and our Vistage leader just sent this out to our group. You are always inspiring. I hope to hear you again – maybe not too soon due to COVID but not too long! Regards, Olivia

  10. Dennis Smith says:

    As an old white guy, I couldn’t agree more. Lots of complaining from folks like me when, in reality, the rest of the world’s population is simply trying to “flatten the curve”. I’m thinking that someone needs to write the counterpoint to Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” for the baby-boomers which would probably be entitled – “My Generation Sucks”.

  11. MK says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It took 30 minutes to read with my poor English, but it worth taking the time. I’m also in my 40’s and having some shared view of life and people in it. Please tell your dad what you think about him. Thank you again.

  12. Julia C says:

    Our whole existence is predicated on luck and genetics: which sperm meets which egg and when. From there we are privy to the benefits and disadvantages of being born to our parents, in a specific part of the world, at a specific point in time, in our unique body. We are all casualties of this system. And yes: it’s incredibly unfair that we are not all given equal footing from the start (however that has less to do with randomness of chance and more to do with the world we’ve created as a collective). But then again, it’s what you do with your luck that counts. I often think it’s unfair that the Kardashians receive so much hate. Yes, they were born with an upper hand but they did something with it. Which is more than I can say for many other wealthy people. Even looking within their family: surely the siblings were beneficiaries of similar “luck” yet on one end you find Kylie and Kim with their beauty empires and on the other hand is Rob, who couldn’t keep a sock company afloat. This isn’t to validate or invalidate any of them but rather to realize that so many factors contribute to “success”. I wish people would be more transparent about the many factors that led to their success (or lack of) but more importantly, I wish people would be radically empathetic. Thank you Scott for being both.

  13. David says:


  14. Sam says:

    Empathy! So important. Scott you are on of the few with a platform to talk about the importance of empathy in our modern society.

  15. Dennis Smith says:

    Re: iAddiction. Scott, together with Kara Swisher, you have made numerous insightful and heartfelt admonishments of Facebook, Robinhood and others whose business models are predicated on successfully injecting the minds of users with psychological dopamine that leads to serious addictive behavior. Your iAddiction piece in No Mercy on June 19 was one of several examples. As it happens on June 19, I had my 13, 10, 8, 7 and 5 year old grandkids with me at our home in Hilton Head. As is commonplace in most American homes these days, the older kids were glued to their iPhones and the younger kids were envious that we didn’t allow them more screen time. I have shared your iAddiction piece with the parents of my grandkids (my daughters and their husbands) and they couldn’t agree more. Three of the grandkids (and my daughter and her husband) are from Naperville, IL – where Alex Kearns died on June 19, so it was especially close for them. In spite of this terrible terrible tragedy, getting thru to the grandkids is hard. Their parents are frustrated. They simply don’t know what to do other than cut off the kids – with the inevitable consequences – lots of tension. Professor, I’m consistently surprised and impressed with your empathy and ability to message big and important plans of action. I would ask that you think about putting out a new big “gangster” idea or plea – we need to find someone who can get your message out about the addiction and the risks of iAddiction that resonates – but not just with parents – it has to GET THRU TO KIDS, TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS. We need to find a way to make them understand the risks of this insidious addiction. You have a platform that can get this message out and there are few things that you could do that would be more important. Thank you for thinking and acting like a human being. Happy Independence Day. Dennis Smith

  16. Sid says:

    Loved it

  17. Dale says:

    All the best to you and your dad through this very difficult time in his life. My dad passed a while back, I am so thankful for the time I spent with him, doing my best to help him understand what was happening to him – the medical staff, the medications, the weird reactions of family. I am thinking of you both.

  18. Row says:

    Mr Galloway, I have been a recent follower and I’ve read a number of your articles and listened to one podcast. I’m a little careful endorsing people (and it’s not like my endorsement means so much for one with your credentials), but you are amongst a few that are truly human, in the most empathetic, truthful form. I’m definitely more excited to read and listen more. This article (thought and delivery) is genius. I know you have access to professional editors and also probably have great editing skills, but if you ever did need help (volunteering for any cause), I’d love to be a part of the truth that you deliver all so often.

  19. Bill says:

    As a new subscriber I was very pleased . Much as I am with your T.V. show ! I couldn’t help but notice an incredible similarity with one of my absolute favorite books – OUTLIERS . His theories seem to run alongside your life’s journey . Keep up the great work !!

  20. Emma Russell says:

    Thanks, this helps me forgive myself for never starting the company that seemed so feasible while I lived in the states, but far too risky during the last 18 years I’ve lived in Europe (the last 15 of which as a single mother). The worst part of this meritocracy myth is that you believe yourself to be unworthy if you work hard but remain poor.

  21. Beth says:

    My time was well spent on this. My task is to ensure that at least a few others in my sphere make the same investment.

  22. Vidhu Mitha says:

    This was the best 5 minutes I’ve ever spent reading anything.Wow Prof.

  23. Conor says:

    Wonderful humility… I am coming to the end of the age of (personal) arrogance and starting to be much more clear that there are many areas and competencies where I suck (even though I think I am awesome).

  24. Kirill says:

    This really made me think and reflect… great essay.

  25. Mark Rutaro says:

    Wow!! Very insightful. If we cant tell our luck, we cant be grateful for who were.

  26. Mohammad says:

    Wonderful insights and personal. Humility balances hubris, only if you are willing to take a closer look at yourself. This piece was clearly written from a place of self-reflection and undertanding. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Rene says:

    Love this column Scott: “To disabuse anybody of this notion, take them to a Sears. ” nails it.

  28. Esben Johansen says:

    Now this was something else. This was seeing things from a different perspective, written with insight and understanding. This piece was great!

  29. Judy Rose says:

    It takes grit to own a business.

  30. Mark Moorhead says:

    A big fan, Prof. G. The notion of conflating luck and talent at one’s peril, that wisdom is NOT the byproduct of wealth, that the tool of humility is to chasten one’s self conception; this and the recollection that Canadians probably see themselves as inhabiting a really nice apartment over the Meth Lab that is the USA; thank you for your wit and wisdom, professor. Our ears are up.

  31. HK says:

    At least someone with a honest view on his achievements and place in society. Luck shouldn’t be discounted as stated by the author. We need more people like him. HK

  32. Alex Brick says:

    Prof Galloway; I have met you in your office (with Alan Harter) and have followed you since. You’ve made huge sense with what I’ve always believed to be “the accident of birth”,or “winning in the parent lottery”. I suspect however that the BIGGEST issue facing us is the exploitation that disguises itself as education. If I could give the rest of my life to one project , it would be disrupting this greatest unfairness. How and where should WE start ? Happy 4th, stay safe, remember to listen and to have the balls to apologise !!! Alex

  33. Joe says:

    Great read. But you thought Thryv software was a good idea. Seems like dog-walk app equal of CRM’s.

  34. Gene says:

    Really sorry to hear about your father; that experience cannot be easy. I hope whatever eventually happens does so in a dignified, loving way.

  35. Asia D Prude says:


  36. Justin Tang says:

    There is so much wisdom in this post that one can meditate on it for a month. Posting up on LinkedIn.

  37. Jerome says:

    The updated Dunning Krüger is carbon copy drones inflating themselves for being righteous while talking about how all it takes to be successful is being a straight white male. This is a great new way to punish poor people, because if they are poor while being “privileged”, then it is because of their own massive failing.

  38. Jerry Kaplan says:

    Luck: a good deal of luck does come from when you were born. I remind my very few peers left on this earth that when we were born in the early 30″s (in the US) we were too young to feel the depression, too young to go to war (II), a bit too old for real Korean War (grad year from college 55), too old for Vietnam draft (60’s), and almost retired before 9/11, 08 $$ crisis, and this long lasting epidemic. Love your posting today especially the personalizing. Cheers.

  39. Andreas Rossler says:

    I agree with *most* of what you write (and say). Disagree with some. I enjoy other perspectives – any comment on the 20% of Asians who are Venture Capitalists? I am certain a confounding variable is missing in that argument.

  40. Bob Walters says:

    Your observation about the very-wealthy caring less about the poor than the well-off really hits the mark. I see it in myself post-retirement. Both age and the lack of $300K base salary provide perspective. Life is richer as I get poorer.

  41. Kathy Barkulis says:

    In other words, you didn’t build that? I disagree. A lot of people who become successful came from nothing. Literally, nothing.

  42. Derek Souter says:

    Hi, as a new reader (1st day today) loved first of the “musings”. And in Scotland the amount of people who discount the contribution of good luck, serendipity or by accident is large, loud and influential.

  43. Julie Wright says:

    Hello Prof. Galloway, first-time commenter. The bias you’re describing in Mr. Son, and so many who are in positions of privilege, is the Self Serving Bias, where one sees their successes as a product of their talents and skills while their failures are just bad luck. Yes, it’s a pitfall for those in great power or wealth. Reminds me of the importance of humility. I enjoy your stuff! Happy 4th.

  44. Irwin says:

    Thanks for the share Prof. Take care of your dad and have a great 4th

  45. Jim Reynolds says:

    So you were born on third. Did you think you had hit a triple? Lots of those people around too. That’s one way we perpetuate the problem of disparity.

  46. Peter B says:

    The great Tibetan Buddhist practitioner Milarepa wrote- “ In my, Milarepa’s, religious tradition, We live so as not to be ashamed of ourselves“

  47. Abbas F. ("Eddy") Zuaiter says:

    Honest! Happy 4th

  48. michele says:

    important perspective and i appreciate that you took the time to articulate this, let alone intellectually understand it.

  49. robert smalley says:

    Mostly enjoyed the blogs put out and very well narrated. However, playing the race card is lazy journalism

  50. David Valentine says:

    Some tears after 2 of the last 3 blogs, thanks for them.

  51. Paul Pierre says:

    Thank you for posting this. I agree that luck and circumstances have a lot to do with success. Christian heterosexual white males do enjoy the most privilege in this country. However, as a Black male, immigrant from Haiti, with similar migration stories, I can tell you that there are NO scarcity of opportunities here in the United States. If you apply a Kickergard philosophy of infinite possibilities, our own will, determination and vision are the most influential variables to the success equation. I hope some day that the playing field is evened out and our success will be the sole results of our efforts and not due to the privileges ascribed to our looks, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientation. I will end with a question. Scott, do you think you would have been this successful, had you NOT a been white, male, and straight? If so, how much of your success is really attributable to you?

  52. Mark Alan Effinger says:

    Scott, you continue to surprise and delight in your focused ramblings. As a regular student of Prof-G and Pivot. A legit owner and evangelist of Algebra of Happiness. A serial entrepreneur. And former Angel/VC wrangler. Your insights and observations keep the fire lit. And I appreciate your authentic realization that it’s not JUST the good idea – but luck, timing and zip code are paramount to success as well. Thanks for providing a Dawg-driven view into the convergence of life and entrepreneurship.

  53. bob h. says:

    scott–I have to re-read some of your comments to fully understand/grasp…the added humor I derive is the bonus!…I’ve been around long enuf to smile and sometimes get mad at some of life’s pompous ‘experts’…keep on bringing us news & focus…best thoughts for your father !…

  54. James Humphries says:

    As a straight white male who was born 99.9% of the way down the third base line, I need every reminder of how lucky I really am. Your quote of, “Not recognizing your blessings feeds into the dark side of capitalism and meritocracy: the notion that success is a choice, and that those who haven’t achieved success are not unlucky, but unworthy,” really hit home as I am very frequently guilty of seeing success as a choice. My hope is that people; my self in particular, will “in humility, consider others better than ourselves.” Thanks.

  55. Justin Telles says:

    It’s a rare thing for one’s deep and unshakeable sense of freedom to feel and think without reservation for criticism to drench every syllable of their writing. Thank you for the cathartic experience, these posts always leave me with a feeling of courage to do something differently than I have been.

  56. Arjun Shah says:

    I relate. I started out at 1st base – immigrating at age 19, single-mom + 2 sisters, carrying $10M in bank fraud on our shoulders from our country (long story, we weren’t guilty), no college, and a job at Taco Bell paying $5.60/hr. Luck has definitely played a part, but never underestimate hard-work.

    • Julie says:

      Your comment reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

  57. Joel Gardner says:

    Beautiful, Scott. My immigrant grandparents got to first base, sacrificed my parents to second, so that I could be on third early in life. They made it possible for me to take my time and find the life and work that suited me best. Neither of those generations had the advantages I did, but who I am was shaped by what they did. My time at UCLA ended before you got there, but I like to think that the campus influenced me, too, the spirit of Ralph Bunche, Jackie Robinson, Kareem, and Coach Wooden (whom I was privileged to interview), the notion that achievement was within me, and that it was up to me, to complete the metaphor, to make it home.

  58. Verinder Syal says:

    Suggest you do the venture capitalist chart by share of population.

  59. Michael v Conley says:

    Your clarity and depth of insight suggests you have not only acquired lots of money but also wisdom. Nice to read of a man who is a success by several measures who has also acquired empathy along the way. Stay strong.

  60. Denis Riel says:

    I ham from the French part of Canada ,and I would like to tell you that your comments are so pertinent ,,,thank you so much to share ,,,so profound ,merci beaucoup

  61. Josh says:

    I know these types of articles mean well, but one thing that really bothers me when you go on about how privileged you are is that there is an underlying insinuation that the boat already left the station and there’s nothing new people will be able to do to succeed, except get really lucky. Maybe some boats have left. Maybe that’s sad. But maybe there are new opportunities as well that are equal or better than your opportunities. Maybe free access to the internet is worth more than some/most college degrees. Maybe some people prefer Tinder to living in a dorm. I really love your work, I just wish you’d more honest about things you actually had to work at, and less dramatically apologetic about existing. I’m otherwise a big fan of your work.

  62. Eve says:

    I wish that our wealthy, “fast thinking”, fearless-leader-in-the-white-house could understand what you said.

    • bob h says:

      EVE—the fastest mind in the country doesn’t need to understand anything–just gets in the way.!..Amen.

  63. Wendi Cooper says:

    As a single mom of 2 boys (now 29 and 39) in Los Angeles, a high-school graduate with no higher education degree – I am a self-made entrepreneur in advertising and marketing, since 1997 – I never took a marketing class nor attended UCLA film school, but excelled past those that did…. Life isn’t easy. Parents get old and need us as we will need our kids one day. I escaped abuse – in my twenties and never looked back – it shaped me – for sure – not sure in what way – good or bad – but it shaped me as a mother and protector of my cubs. I’ve been faced with my own mortality and have watched others not be so lucky as to survive. But at the end of any day, it all boils down to – not the right place at the right time – but the right attitude and knowing that one must make the place they are…the right place. Life is precious. Life is also ugly and unfair. But Life is what we make it. Happiness is also what we make it and there is no place for it in the past or future – only now. I am thrilled to celebrate my 65th 4th of July. #wearamask

    • Aileen McKeown says:

      Thank you for your comments, Wendi. My life phosophy has simplified down to this – I can control 2 things in life: my attitude and my effort. Happiness is a choice. 😉

  64. MARK L says:

    Scott, a great post – I want to be you when I grow up (just turned 65). If I have one virtue, it’s that I’ve always appreciated my good demographic fortune (while not dismissing some smarts and a stupidly high work ethic). I now volunteer at a non-profit that helps school kids “of color” get in (most often 1st gen) and stay in college. This helps me remember, not in a guilty way, my good luck and pays it forward a wee bit. Also, there’s no better way to get past the “otherness” instinct than immersion with “the others” in real life. Keep up the great work. Cutting through BS is god’s work.

  65. Jose A. Aguero Ball-llovera says:

    Finally I read one well written newsletter that wasn’t disproportionately patched together under the ethilic influence! And this one hit a Home Run. I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and decided that I like you. Happy 4th!

  66. Caroline Andoscia says:

    I love your newsletter but this one really hit home. Always funny, refreshingly honest and well written. The only newsletter I’m excited to read. Happy 4th!

  67. C Cook says:

    More ‘white male’ (WM) bashing? Maybe pick on those ignoring their own ‘diversity bingo square’. Athletes specifically seem more willing to pitch $300 tennis shoes than to help solve problems in their communities. Many exceptions, but little of the shaming that WM are said to deserve. All who succeeded and bought those $20M mansions in Belair or Hamptons should also be shamed, if shame is the goal. I don’t feel guilty for dragging myself up from lower class blue collar America. Years on an oil rig and unloading mail trucks to pay for college wiped out any potential guilt for what I achieved. If you earned it, see the shaming for what it is, guilty rich white people unloading their angst on someone else.

    • Matthew Salamonski says:

      It’s interesting you see data as “bashing” which probably says more about you than the data…

  68. Ray Duncan says:

    Great post, and so apropo for Independence Day.

  69. John says:

    Thanks Scott. Always the deep thinker, with graphs.

  70. Mark says:

    Extremely well said w a sprinkle of humor as always. I think possessing humility is what I think you are conveying to us. Today there is a dearth if it coupled with a rigid “trivialization syndrome” that makes it more dangerous. We should all remember what would our mothers have said about our behavior or expectations

  71. Doug says:

    What a profound insight, being born in America provides you A great opportunity to succeed. Too bad we don’t celebrate America for being the force for good in the world. But if you listen to everyone it’s such a bigoted and racist place. Another generation or two and all of the freedom America had going for it will be subverted by tech algorithms making all our decisions and Democrats will still be trotting our racism and women’s reproductive rights as the reasons to vote out republicans. The older I get the more things stay the same.

  72. Rob says:

    As an older white Canadian, I looked at America with envy in my life. Great schools, great companies, great cities. Now, I am thankful to live where i do. It’s not perfect, but it’s safe.

    • Doug says:

      As American I used to look at us too as the example for others. Now I just want to get away from all the college educated people who failed to get the simple lesson of personal responsibility. It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations around here these days. Unfortunately I think personal freedom is dying a slow death here. Be happy with what you have I guess but that only works until they burn down your business.

  73. Steve says:

    Scott, I really enjoy your posts and appreciate your comments about our nation. Might I suggest you consider referring to Independence Day instead of the Fourth of July? One is just a date, the other is a very important event to commemorate. Thanks again for the great writing!

  74. Jonny Come Lately says:

    Fantastic piece – really strong stuff Prof. Best to your pop…

  75. Alan says:

    Thanks for the taking the time and looking inward as you always do. Would have been great to have you as a professor – although at the student age, I probably would not have listened- just as my young adult kids do to me. I am forwarding this post off to them and will hopefully start a meaningful discussion. Have a great holiday weekend.

  76. Leo says:

    Another great post Prof. Galloway! Thanks for sharing some of your back story, insights & perspective, it’s much appreciated! Have a great holiday weekend!

  77. phylo says:

    There are 2 bell-shaped curves on an x-axis that is “none” on the left end “total” on the right end. The characteristics (width, height, skew, etc….) and where those curves peak on that axis are unique to each curve. One of those curves is Perception. The other curve is Capability. Brilliance is the measure of overlap of those two curves. It used to be rewarded, but what you are saying is that that societal wealth (and I argue general freedom from daily survival concerns, a unique occurrence over the last century in the total of human history) now no longer values that overlap, rather has focused its attention on the Perception curve. Warhol canned it with the 15 minutes of fame thing.

  78. Katherine says:

    Great post. Funny, I’ve been using the baseball/bases analogies for years when I explain success to people. While I work hard and I’m proud of my accomplishments, I know full well I started on third base (with built-in, lucky breaks) while so many others never left the dugout….

  79. Matthew C Cheresh says:

    Dunning-Kruger is not about stupidity – it is about lack of knowledge. D-K’s research showed that if overconfident people were trained in the subject area, they would move to the underconfident range – once they knew enough, they became aware of what they didn’t know. Ties in quite nicely with Daniel Kahneman’s work – if people let their System 2 thinking atrophy, they fail to build up sufficient knowledge, memory, etc. to be competent. This can be reversed.

  80. Ashu says:

    Great article as usual but not possible to break luck into parts and components. Basically just respect and acknowledge the random nature of it

  81. Glyn Davies says:

    Thank you.

  82. Bhavesh Ranavat says:

    So much to learn from you Professor! I just love reading NM-NM

  83. Prabhu Guptara says:

    Someone referred me yesterday to one of your earlier posts and I wasn’t particularly impressed but scrolled up and read this post and decided to subscribe.

  84. Regina McDowell says:

    Wow! While seeking reasoning for all that’s going on in the world I opened this email so…Thank you for saving today.

  85. Chris Reid says:

    I’ve not worked in business, nor been an entrepreneur, but I religiously read NM/NM, as well as subscribe to Pivot. The reason is simple – your understanding of people, and human behavior in general, along with your ability to clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas, has profound value. You cause me to think at a deeper level, and help me regard those around me with greater care and empathy on a daily basis. Thank you.

  86. Simon Claringbold says:

    Great insights – have subscribed

  87. VINAY CHAUDHRI says:

    This is the first one of your newsletters that I’ve read. And now I’m a subscriber.

  88. Devānanda Sarasvatī says:

    If you really suffered from Dunning-Kruger you wouldn’t be able to self-diagnose. Maybe you had it before and got over it. Congratulations on your recovery. When I was a hippie back in the 60s I did a lot of hitchhiking. The rich people in their nice cars would rarely pick me up; it was always the hirsute dude or chick in the broke-down beater who were kind enough. Your analysis of the well-off is spot-on.

    • JD NYC says:

      Who knows if this is really a self-diagnosis? There are plenty of flawed narrator movies. This could just be life imitating art.

  89. Christnye says:

    Great post. I have to say though, that the number of businesses, in the UK, that go bust owing me money and then magically reopen under a different name suggests failure is still tolerated here!

  90. Rajan says:

    Love this, puts into words / a structure something I’ve been thinking about a long time, though I wonder if it is lifes purpose to remain or go up in base and then pass the baton to the next generation, because lets face it all friends / people we know have at some point inherited the success of a previous generation (even if that is something like being born into royalty!)

  91. Julie Anixter says:

    Thanks Scott. I find your ability to interpret refreshing and helpful in today’s jaundiced world.

  92. MB says:


  93. Chad says:

    Love the MJ/Barons analogy. Great read, as always.

  94. c1ue says:

    Thank you for writing this post – filled with empathy, humility and humanity – as opposed to some of the previous ones which really made me question why I read them or follow your blog posts.

    • Doug says:

      I rarely agree with Prof G but he makes me think about other perspectives which we could certainly use more of. Plus he doesn’t follow some stock ideology but makes his own path which was what it was like to be friends with someone on the other side of the isle before big tech ruined us.

  95. Leslie says:

    You should take better care of your father. Your mother was able to raise you because he spent more time working (providing). The sacrifices fathers make are frequently overlooked. Also, discussing what happens when you go back a base would be worthwhile.

  96. Robert says:

    This was a depressing post

  97. Hoosier Daddy says:

    I wish more people in your situation thought thought this way, but what next?

  98. Bhuvan says:

    Feel freshness of authenticity!💫

  99. Stefano says:

    Thank you! Nice article – for me definitely better than the last ones. “Buon Natale!” from Switzerland.

  100. EM says:

    Thanks for your great insights and for making it personal, as always. I like the stance you’re taking with twitter but a part of me worries that the fiduciary angle of it will only push them to be more like facebook, of which I want no part of.

  101. Curious georgina says:

    Why isn’t my comment showing?

  102. Michael v Conley says:

    Clarity is rarely pleasant – thanks for your vision

  103. Johanna Baynard says:

    The zeitgeist of the twenty first century is greed. The last hold out for possible equality was America, that possibility died almost a hundred years ago. No one knows that it happened. Thank you for the discussion.

    • Johanna agree100%. says:

      Johanna agree100%. Greed has become the national religion, it’s our own Tower of Babel.

    • Kent says:


    • Doug says:

      It couldn’t be that our government doesn’t represent us faithfully? It’s all about capitalism is evil? The capitalism that makes it such a privilege to be born in America? But it’s such a rotten place? But it’s such a privilege? I really don’t understand people who say things like that. You are not entitled to be a millionaire Or have the same amount of money as everyone else, our government is supposed to make sure everyone plays by the same rules that are fair. Talent should win out. But I guess they don’t teach American values in school anymore.

  104. Peter Hunt says:

    Superb. I wish every kid from tenth grade up had to learn this – and pass a random test on it before being allowed home each Friday.

  105. AARON M says:

    Great essay Scott – wishing you and your family happy holidays!

  106. Jerome says:

    I’m almost done watching season 2 of Succession. Perfect timing 🙂

  107. Chris Bell says:

    Agree – personal achievements essentially reflect the circumstances our parents achieved for us and our geopolitical location at birth. The rich get richer …

  108. Bob Sollish says:

    RE: “The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few.” I wonder if this cuts both ways? Instead of (the 99%) seeing the privileged few aspirationally – as themselves in the future – where they want to eventually be (as part of “The American Dream”), etc. – they lose (all) empathy and stop caring what happens to them.

    • c1ue says:

      Actually, I saw someone else talk about this: only in America do many of the 99% vote for laws which privilege the 1% at the expense of themselves, even though the likelihood of any one of them achieving that state is pretty much zero. Couple this with American mobility being ridiculously low – the problem isn’t empathy but rather economic self interest as a class.

    • Doug says:

      So people get the government they voted for and it’s not their own fault? It’s like people who say they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative where the next utterance is we need to give free health and education. We need less government and more freedom, but that would be too American.

  109. Robert Sterbal says:

    It would be great if you gathered your listeners and readers in a Facebook group. I’d be happy to help.

  110. Tatyana says:

    Thanks for writing this. It will be interesting to watch the backlash and denial.

  111. Lydia Kidwell Sugarman says:

    As I read the explanation of ‘us vs. them” relative to income level, I wondered about the effect of proximity. Just like it’s been proven if you dress to work out and think about working out, your brain rewards you for working out whether you did or not, I’m wondering if people living in proximity to wealth start taking on the characteristics of those who are truly wealthy? Maybe that could explain some of the attitudes in San Francisco toward the poor, the homeless, toward each other.

  112. tom griffin says:

    Like the man said…a treasure.

  113. Boomer says:

    You, Good Sir, are a treasure. Thank you.

    • JAMES BLACK says:

      Like most of your monthly invocations, I enjoyed this one for the honesty and humility (not faux humility) that you bring to the blog. You acknowledge that you were born on third base. Many persons in your position are convinced that they hit a triple. Keep speaking to power. To entenched thinking, and to entitlement.

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