Sometimes people sound like they think success is much a result of effecient planning and time management. If one wants to become a professional football player or a software developer, one should really have planned it from early stages in one’s life. And to some extent, those who believe in this statement are correct; if a person focuses on something it has a better chance of improving and thus getting better than its competitors. However, more often than not, things in life do not turn out as planned. And one might still end up being successful. One example is the famous economist Robert M. Solow, who was cited in a previous blog post (in Swedish) about a month ago. In an anthology he writes:
The point is that I had no feeling that economic analysis could penetrate to the heart of what was going on in the world. I certainly hadn’t made up my mind to major in economics or to become an economist. What I did instead was to volunteer for the army. It seemed more constructive than what I was doing.
Three years later I came back, and almost without thinking about it, signed up to finish my undergraduate degree as an economics major. The timing was such that I had to make a decision in a hurry. No doubt I acted as if I were maximizing an infinite discounted sum of one-period utilitiles, but you couldn’t prove it by me. To me it felt as if I were saying to myself: “What the hell.” (William Breit and Barry T. Hirsch (2009), Lives of the Laureates, p. 156.)