I think that success in life is largely a matter of luck. It has little correlation with merit, and in all fields of life there have always been many people of great merit who did not succeed.
Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (first published 1974, new edition Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2005), p. 78.
Karl Popper (1902-1994) is a famous Austrian philosopher. On the same subject, here is a recent FT column. Lucy Kellaway (born 1959), is a management columnist, not a philosopher; she is not famous, but she does have something useful to say about why the best and brightest are not always appreciated by employers. She refers to private sector employment, but her insight applies even more to the public sector.
[Years ago] someone [who] had just stepped down as chief executive of a huge company … told me that one of the problems he faced was having far too many super bright people to manage. ….
At first I thought he was joking, but he explained that clever people tend to be troublemakers in large businesses. They think they know best. They tend to look down on others who aren’t so good. They get frustrated. Above all they find complexity exciting, and love nothing more than creating it. A glut of bright people leads to a sort of intelligence sclerosis.
Lucy Kellaway, “Dear Lucy: Why is there so much mediocrity?“, Financial Times, 12 September 2012.
Ms Kellaway is answering the query of a young Oxford graduate who does not understand why most of his colleagues in the large firm that hired him “are neither terribly bright nor terribly hardworking. …. Am I missing something? I just don’t get it; if these companies are so hard to get into, how come most of the people who have made it are so mediocre?”