Understanding Luck

There is a common misconception amongst people in business, especially young entrepreneurs, lying in the belief that luck is unassociated with hard work.

I live my life by a motto declaring the complete opposite, and I want to show you why. I’ll be using a small tale told by an old professor of mine to emphasize the point.

Motto: “Luck is the intersection of hard work and opportunity” – B.P


Imagine yourself sitting in a lecture hall, 200 students surrounding you, all possessing individual skills and all having spent the last 20 years of their lives working towards different goals. Suddenly, the head of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra barges through the doors, shouting that their lead French-hornist has just been in a severe car accident and won’t be able to perform in their opening-show tonight. He asks if anyone can play the French horn, and he states that he’s willing to pay a substantial amount for their presence, given that it is a leading role.

You, well you’ve never even considered playing the French horn, the request is nothing but a random occurrence to be forgotten in minutes, the events haven’t altered your life in the slightest. Suddenly, a young man stands up in the back of the hall and shouts out that he can play, that he’s been practicing the French horn since he was a child, and that he can read any music sheets provided for the performance. The Symphony Head excitedly brings him down and they walk out, presumably negotiating the contract and discussing the evening’s plans. You look at your seatmate and say in awe, “Man, how lucky is that guy. What are the odds.”


That young man had put in hard work to learn both the French horn and music literacy, and when an opportunity presented itself, he was prepared to grab it. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t elements of luck, as the Symphony Head could have walked into several other rooms, or the man could have skipped class that day. The principle lies in the idea that preparation and patience will lead to seemingly lucky outcomes, and that being ready for your chance is just as valuable as actually getting it.

Focus less on the outcome and more on the process. Make sure you’re ready, and when your opportunity presents itself, you’ll be able to pounce. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me 6-hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”

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