What’s luck got to do with it?

  • By: Scott Miller, Fresno Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman and Owner of Gazebo Gardens

One of the greatest things about getting involved with the Fresno Chamber is the chance to chat with business owners and entrepreneurs.  I’ve always considered it a real privilege to be able to pick the brains of very successful people.   I love hearing all the stories about where great ideas came from, risks that were taken, and detractors who were made to eat their negative words.

In my experience, literally every single successful entrepreneur loves to talk about their business; in fact it’s probably one of the things that made them successful in the first place.  I have often been surprised during these discussions, how many of the entrepreneurs and business builders I know say that luck has been a major factor in their success.

What’s luck got to do with it?  Generally, the people who are telling me how lucky they are also very smart, hard-working, and determined.  Seems like those things might have had something to do with their success.  Some of these people have had one success after the other for decades.  A run like that certainly can’t be just luck.  The truth is, I haven’t ever met anyone who started their business after winning the lotto or finding a bucket of diamonds.  That would be luck.

Still, I hear stories of business luck over and over again.  Things like: “I was lucky to have started my real estate career at such-and-such time” or “I was lucky that my main competitor underestimated me for so long.”    A grower friend told me he was lucky to have a very productive water well on a certain ranch.  I even got into a conversation recently with a successful consultant who told me how lucky he was to have been laid off from his engineering job – because that was what motivated him to start his own firm.  Are any of these things really about luck?  I mean, really.  What kind of person would say that getting laid off is lucky? 

A successful person would.

Maybe successful people just feel lucky. The more I think about it, the more I think that actual luck plays a much smaller role in success than feeling lucky does.  Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic people who don’t know how to give up.  They are excited about something and have a vision to make it happen.  Successful people learn from their mistakes and move on.  Basically, these are the kind of people who could feel lucky in just about any situation.  And it would be true because they make it so.  These are people who see opportunity and wonder everywhere. There is no question in my mind that old sayings like, “You make your own luck” and “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” are true.  The best way to be lucky is to constantly remind yourself how lucky you are.

To quote the immortal words of Dirty Harry – “You’ve got to ask yourself one question:  Do I feel lucky? Well… do ya?“ 

Well, unless I manage to make Clint Eastwood angry at some point, my answer to that question is ‘yes’.


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