Luck, Chance, or Providence?

By E. Brown

We’re not as smart as we like to think we are.

Side Bar
I know many people, some are good friends, who have earned their doctorate. It is interesting to watch them. Some insist on being called “Doctor” while others rarely use the title except on resumes. It seems that those who insist on being called “Doctor” parade around their credentials like a badge, and I suppose with the time and money they spent they feel they have earned the right. Yet, those who I know that are not prone to title-dropping still consider themselves as students. They realize they are not as smart as their press makes them out to be. They have come to the humble understanding that they still have much to learn. I like these people.

When starting up or heading up a company/organization it is easy to fall into the trap that says– “I have earned this position, therefore call me Chief, President, Director, Boss, Doctor…” and the list goes on. Have you truly earned the position? Earned the right? Or, could it have been something else?

Luck or Chance
Marc Andreessen has been wrestling with this idea. You remember Marc, right? Does the name Netscape ring any bells? As an entrepreneur and (many would say) intelligent guy, Marc seems to recognize that he’s not as smart as he thinks he is or as others give him credit for. In his recent post, Luck and the entrepreneur, part 1: The four kinds of luck, Marc comments:

Luck is something that every successful entrepreneur will tell you plays a huge role in the difference between success and failure. Many of those successful entrepreneurs will only admit this under duress, though, because if luck does indeed play such a huge role, then that seriously dents the image of the successful entrepreneur as an omniscient business genius.

Moreover, some of those people would shrug and say that luck is simply out of your hands. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.

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He goes on to say that chance/luck favors those that are:

  • Energetic
  • Curious
  • Aggressive at synthesizing
  • Developing a unique personal perspective

Are these personal traits manufactured or are they part of who a person already is? The practices listed above come more naturally to some than others. Is that truly chance or is that making yourself available to options and opportunities?

If you’re given over to spiritual thoughts, how does providence fit in?

It is interesting to hear people talk about what motivates them now and what used to motivate them one, two, five, or ten years ago. When ever there has been a big change in their lives it has usually been due to some kind of outside influence that dramatically changed how they viewed themselves and those around them.

For some, there has been a complete character change — e.g. from lazy and apathetic to energized and inspired. Relatives and friends speak of them as having been transformed. What does that mean? How does that kind of thing happen? Did they work at it? Is it luck, chance, or providence?

Regardless, there seem to be a set of principles, that when applied yield similar, if not the same, results. One such idea is mentioned in my article, The Power Principle.

Like the Law of Gravity, there seem to exist ideals and principles that are non-negotiable: A + B = C. There also seem to be variations based upon individual responses to these principles. Each has differing consequences.

So, back to luck and chance. How about you — have you gotten to the point where you are in life because of luck or chance? Do you feel you have worked your way into your position? Let me ask you, how much control do you truly think you have?

Let me know what you think. Comment here.


2 thoughts on “Luck, Chance, or Providence?

  1. Does fate then play a role here? If speaking about luck and chances then surely the notion of fate comes in play. Entrepreneurs are lucky because they have minds to see opportunity and recognize good ideas while having the bravery and courage to act when taking a step in the dark. There is no assurance of success, no matter how sound a business plan or idea, people of courage take the chance and act with optimism without the assurance or guarantee of success. In this position they are best positioned for success because they have already conquered their biggest obstacle: fear, uncertainty and the inability to act in the presence of both. You might find some of the leadership and management ideas insightful in this leadership blog

  2. Jeffrey, you raise a good point. I might argue that there are character qualities at work here. Conquering fear, uncertainty, and the inability to act come easier to some more than others. Those whom I know that exhibit these qualities also have an inner confidence. My question then is, what is their confidence in? Some would say, their confidence lies in themselves. Yet, that raises the question of control — is any of us truly in control of our “fate”?

    Good discussion. Keep the comments coming! -eb

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