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Home » Barry Schwartz: What Role Does Luck Play In Your Life? (Transcript)

Barry Schwartz: What Role Does Luck Play In Your Life? (Transcript)

Full text of psychologist Barry Schwartz’s talk titled “What Role Does Luck Play In Your Life?” at TED conference.


Barry Schwartz – Psychologist

Hello, everybody. I’m honored to be here to talk to you. And what I’m going to talk about today is luck and justice and the relation between them.

Some years ago, a former student of mine called me to talk about his daughter. It turns out his daughter who was a high school senior, was seriously interested in applying to Swarthmore, where I taught, and he wanted to get my sense of whether she would get in.

Swarthmore is an extremely hard school to get into. So I said, “Well, tell me about her.”

And he told me about her, you know what her grades were like, her board scores, her extracurricular activities. And she just sounded like a superstar, wonderful, wonderful kid.

So I said, “She sounds fabulous. She sounds like just the kind of student that Swarthmore would love to have.”

And so he said, “Well, does that mean that she’ll get in?”

And I said, “No. There just aren’t enough spots in the Swarthmore class for everybody who’s good. There aren’t enough spots at Harvard or Yale or Princeton or Stanford. There aren’t enough spots at Google or Amazon or Apple. There aren’t enough spots at the TED Conference. There are an awful lot of good people, and some of them are not going to make it.”

So he said, “Well, what are we supposed to do?”

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