In an interview last week, I was asked how much I believed that “luck” played in to the success of our business over the years. It was a fair question. Sure, a lot of things have gone our way over the years, even when we didn’t think they would; and we have also had some bad breaks. However, that only tells part of the story. Timing and preparedness played a key role in both.
My favorite, and preferred definition of luck is from the Roman philosopher, Seneca:
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.”
We all know people who seem to be habitually lucky, or unlucky for that matter. How much of that is really in their control?
Looking at this notion through the lens of preparedness meeting opportunity better explains how a situation could be regarded as unlucky or lucky; it’s often based on the prevailing circumstances.
For instance, when the subprime mortgage crisis hit a decade ago, some people owned multiple houses with interest-only mortgages – mortgages they really could not afford. They borrowed recklessly. Yet others saved during that time and waited patiently on the sidelines. They made the decision to not chase what we now know as “irrational exuberance”.
When the housing market crashed seemingly overnight and home prices fell 20-30 percent, people who borrowed recklessly would probably chalk up their losses to being “unlucky” or having “bad timing.” Conversely, people in the second group, those who saved and waited during the subprime frenzy, were then able to purchase their home at a significantly lower price point with a larger down payment. Many probably felt that they were “lucky” or had “great timing.” The same circumstance, played out two different ways, based on what preceded the event.
There are certainly times when we just have “good” or “bad” luck – such as, finding a $100 bill on the ground or being in the way of bird who has great aim. But if we just credit every situation as either “good luck” or “bad luck” without considering our own choices and behavior, we do ourselves a disservice. What’s more is that we may not learn from our mistakes or recognize how we created an opportunity for success.
So, thinking back to the question I was asked, we’ve absolutely been lucky in many different situations. We’ve also made some good strategic decisions to position ourselves for success when the opportunity presented itself.
I’d like to think we can all create more of our own luck.
Quote of the Week
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”