Work hard, work smart, make the right connections, get the right education, invest wisely – yet after doing all the supposedly right things, success remains elusive to many. For a few, however, who may or may not have done exactly these things, success seems to come effortlessly. Some are very fortunate and others not so much. The lack of correspondence between exertion and success or work and good fortune is an issue that confronts lay persons and professionals alike. Focusing on Yoruba people, I discursively present lay Yoruba persons’ apprehension and common-sense view of this conundrum as reflected in their contextualized language use and supported by other ‘mundane’ information from day-to-day life. By looking at their everyday language, it is possible to deduce their reality as socially constructed in their discourses and gain insight into how they reconcile individual exertions with a view that asserts determinism. Further, I will suggest that the basis of the Yoruba conventional knowledge system informing their utterances and actions pertaining specifically to people's earthly fortunes lies in their origination narrative and original life quest, the essence of which remains inarguable even if temporarily pliable. The popular saying ‘iṣẹ́ o kan oríire’, exertion does not relate to success, is used as a point of departure and sense contained in their orature – situational utterances, pithy proverbs, aphorism and anecdotes – to tease out the Yoruba ordinary meaning of success/fortune and how it is acquired, relative to individuals’ earthly journey and preoccupation. Based on the sampled day-to-day utterances, individual life, it seems, unfolds as presumably scripted, despite apparent avowal and disavowal of ordination in people's pronouncements. Orí (head) retains its position at the summit, assenting – or not – to earthly endeavours.