There is this phrase that some people I know like to throw around:
"The harder you work, the luckier you get."
Uttered by Gary Player, a golfer, at some point in history of the universe. Now, in theory, I like this quote a lot, particularly as it pertains to golf.
But I have totally soured to its use in the context of science. In fact, it irks the shit out of me. And here's why:
1. Sometimes you work really, really hard, and you don't get lucky. [Example, this one from my personal library: You've been trying to do this THING for two years. You've tried everything you can think of. You assemble data, make a list of attempted techniques, tuck a box of tissues under you arm, and sit down for a meeting with your advisor. Advisor looks at your junk and says, "Well, looks like you've found 15 things that don't work. Now all you need is one that works, goddammit." Super.]
2. Sometimes you get lucky without doing jack. [Example: You are a lazy ass and don't do much work. One night you get lit, swing by the lab, and in your drunken stupor start singing "I Want You to Want Me" to your African chipmunk pancreas cells. Without delay, the cells start producing diamonds.]
3. Most irritating, however, is the implication that if you don't get lucky, then you haven't been working hard.
The astute (and good-looking) reader may suspect that my disdain for the quote stems from my general lack of luck in the scientific arena. And there is some truth in that, of course. But I cannot cry and complain that I have nothing to show for all of my years in the lab, because that's just not true. When it comes to science results, however, everything I've gotten has been the direct result of work, not luck.
And this phrase seems like nothing more than something lucky people say to one another.