I may have already said this in a different blog post but I once had a boss tell me, “it’s better to be lucky than to be smart. “ That has always stuck with me. Mostly because I’m not someone who believes in luck, yet I fully believe in this saying. 

Huh, what are the odds?

I stopped believing in luck the day I lost my wallet, which contained a crisp, new $50 bill I got for Christmas bonus one year. From the same boss actually. The same day I got the $50 bill, I lost the wallet. I’d left it on top of my car and drove somewhere at night with my brother and friends to go skateboarding and lost it in the middle of the road. I retraced my steps (or, rather, tire tracks) and after searching a quarter-mile stretch of US highway at night, I found the wallet. But not with the $50 bill still in it, of course. 

I scoured the highway median, knowing I wouldn’t find the lost $50, but refusing to accept it as a loss or a lesson learned. I knew the speed with which northbound traffic was moving, the bill had probably blown a quarter mile, at most, up the road. For almost an hour, I grazed up and down the dry, cigarette-littered strip of grass with my dying flashlight. Then, tangled in a patch of woody weeds, I found a $50 bill. My $50 bill? I like to think so.

Some might say luck was the very reason I found what I was looking for. But I think it was the opposite of luck. It was hard work and determination. Refusal to give up.

Though I don’t believe in luck, I do believe in statistics. Just because there is a 1% chance, or a 0.0001% chance of something happening, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. By definition, it can happen. It’s just very unlikely. So I think the odds, or the chance, of an instance falling into that small window of opportunity is what most people consider luck.

And what I think is meant by the term, “it’s better to be lucky than to be smart,” is this. Say you have 10 equally smart, equally dedicated, equally passionate, equally talented individuals who are aiming to do the same exact thing. For this example, let’s say they’re all competing for a job. And there’s only one opening. Well, they can’t all get the job with only one opening. So simply out of chance, one of them will get the job and the rest won’t. 

But on the other hand, a person can’t rely only on “luck.” He also has to be competent enough to make something out of this very unique opportunity. 

So the point is, don’t rely on luck to accomplish things. Even though that is technically what it takes to make it big, if that’s your goal. Instead, focus on being the best you can be. Work on what you can control. Be excellent. Because it may give you that slight upper hand when put up against five, 10, or 100 individuals equal to you.