The Definition of Luck

An old friend and I were chatting about luck. He isn’t a believer in luck so I posed this formula which I use to define luck:

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

The catch is that we often overlook opportunity because of preconceived notions. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Here are some famous missed opportunities:

  • Decca Recording Company passed on the Beatles, saying “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
  • Digital Equipment Corporation Chairman Ken Olson in 1977, just before the PC revolution said “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
  • Xerox invented the graphical user interface with mouse, not Apple. Xerox just didn’t know what to do with it since the PC market didn’t exist. Apple saw it and ran with the idea.
  • Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPod either. Engineer Tony Fadell couldn’t get Real Networks and Philips (Fadell’s employer) to bite on the idea for a new kind of music player. Jobs did.
  • One of my favorites: 1876 – Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, Sir William Preece, said “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

Thomas Edison once said that opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. The fact is that opportunity is everywhere. You only have to look at every situation a little differently – without preconceived notions.

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