By | January 12, 2011

I have said a hundred times — luck happens when opportunity meets preparation. I’ve heard others say luck is another word for hard work that pays off. I’ve also noticed those who say these things are the ones who have benefited from good luck.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he found that success was largely impacted by good fortune. When you were born, who your parents are, and those you had a chance encounter with. Not to mention shifts in the world that adjusted the road to success in your direction. What was previously thought of as grunt work, was now a valued process. The work didn’t change, the focus of the world simply shifted.

None of us want to believe our success came from simply good fortune. But how else can you explain the meteoric rise of the formerly homeless golden-voiced Ted Williams? He was pan-handling on a street corner like many others in this country. A newspaper person shot a video of him, sat on it for five weeks, and then posted it on youtube where it took a life of its own.

I embrace the story of Mr. Williams; I think it is wonderful for him. But it wasn’t an intersection of preparation meeting opportunity. It was good luck.

My largest contract in my career came as a result of luck. It was a chance encounter in an airport club room. I’ve struck up hundreds of conversations in airport club rooms. If skill was involved I would have many more contracts of that size and would spent a lot more time in airport club rooms! It was just good fortune that someone was speaking to the right person at the right time who was interested in what I was offering.

Unfortunately luck also has a down side.

Consider the story of the 9 year old girl who was born into a major league baseball family, had been profiled in a book about children who were born on September 11, 2001, and then was asked by a neighbor to attend a congresswoman’s meet and greet with constituents in Tucson on January 8, 2011, where sadly she was shot to death.

She did not ask to be born into a wealthy, high profile family, she was one of a select few born on that day profiled in the book, and there was no action on her part that caused her death other than to simply be there. It was pure bad luck.

In poker the top players calculate the odds in how to proceed in playing a hand. When long odds hit against you it is referred to as taking a “bad beat.” By the same token when long odds fall in your favor in the poker world it is called a “suck out.”

With a 52-card deck odds can be calculated. In life, odds are so variable as to be incalculable, but it doesn’t mean bad beats and suck outs don’t exist. Life is filled with luck.

Does that mean I am saying sit, wait and see what life brings to your doorstep? Not in the least! We have to put ourselves in play to allow positive impact to occur. But I am saying before we reject people because of their standing in life, we should consider luck had a large hand in the outcome. By the same token, before we get caught up in all of our own successes, we should be thankful at our good fortune. I am sure you can think of a hundred decision points in your life where you got the fortunate break and had that decision gone the other way; you would be a very different person for it.

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