Think of any successful person. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do you think Bill Gates was the most qualified computer programmer or entrepreneur in his day? Do you think that the reason he started Microsoft and succeeded was simply because he was the most qualified person out there?

Take Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. He has become one of the richest people in the world. Was he the smartest web programmer at the time?

The same is true for Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, MLK, and every other successful person you can think off.

The idea of a self-made man or self-made woman is bogus. No one alone has what it takes to achieve success or their full potential.

King Solomon once made this observation,

The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

I think that’s a very insightful observation. In my own experience, I’ve seen the same thing. The people who are successful today aren’t successful simply because they are the best. If you listen to the stories of many of these successful people and how they started their companies you will realize that many of them stumbled on to it. They hadn’t even planned it. And they certainly weren’t the best at doing it.

If you observe keenly, there is always a supernatural hand at work. Even though we would love to think that we determine our futures solely by how hard or smart we work, that’s not true.

Some people are born in Buckingham Palace and are princes or princesses of Wales. Others are born in the slums of Nairobi or the streets of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The person born in Buckingham Palace inherits wealth and power just by being born. The person born in the slums of Nairobi is poor and powerless from day one, simply for being born there.

Then there are many other determinants of success that are outside of our control. The laws of the country you were born in, the political climate, to name just a few. Even the season and year you are born has a lot to do with your ability to succeed.

Having said that, even if the stars were aligned in our favor, we wouldn’t become successes without our own individual contribution. Hard work, integrity, intelligence, continuously learning, never giving up, etc, are qualities that empower people to succeed.

Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation

The heavens provide opportunity and we provide the preparation that we need to succeed. Even the preparation that we must provide isn’t done without supernatural help. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, wasn’t only born in a country like the U.S. that made it possible for him to start Facebook, he also was born naturally intelligent and had parents who had both the resources and the foresight to enroll him into computer programming courses at an early age. All he had to do was apply himself to learn. He didn’t make himself intelligent, and he didn’t initiate his own training or pay for it.

Serena and Venus Williams are other examples of people whose parents had both the resources and foresight to initiate their training.They just had to work hard to continue.

What is the take home message here? When success happens, be excited and celebrate that your hard work has paid off. However, also be humbled by the truth that your success hasn’t simply been because of your hard work. Forces outside your control played a much bigger part to your success.