Attending a party for ex-employees of Patchen Inc., one of the wives told me that I had been really “lucky” to have created a company and successfully sold it for a sizable profit.[i]I had invested four years of my time and less than a half-million dollars of my own money, then sold the Company to John Deere for $11 million. I managed to restrain myself for the moment but later, I wished that I had not been so polite, thinking that I should have told her how one goes about becoming so“lucky”.
Getting “lucky” often begins with working one’s way through college. Tending bar and working in a radio-TV repair shop at night are both good ways to find that kind of “luck”. If one is also “lucky” enough to be able to stay awake long enough to complete the following day’s homework, it is possible to get “lucky” enough to learn the material the professors are offering.
Where one really can benefit from a lot of good “luck” is in seeking out the right jobs and then doing those jobs better than anyone else around. Being really “lucky” can mean working hard for promotions, saving money, solidifying professional relationships, and building the self-confidence needed to actually leverage one’s professional ability and reputation for a chance to risk everything gained thus-far on a dream.
The last step to becoming “lucky” is to mortgage the house, cash in all of the retirement savings, and sell everything that is not absolutely essential for life. Then call on all of the relatives and every professional colleague from the past 30 years to convince them to invest in an uncertain start-up company. Then beg friends to risk their own welfare to work in exchange for an equity stake in the dream that is not even their own dream, and risk it all on an idea that is far from being proven. That almost seems reasonable, from the perspective of one whose marriage is probably lost to long hours and seven-day work-weeks, and grown children who hardly know their father.
The final stroke of “luck” comes when this “lucky” individual, battered and bruised from countless disappointments, emerges in one piece. Everyone around has lost hope – friends have vanished and money is gone – but finally, as theory predicted years earlier, the new technology emerges from the skunk-works and customers accept it.
But wait – there is a very REAL element of luck here that began decades earlier. For any of these things to have come about, one must have been lucky enough to be born in a free country, full of opportunity, with the courage and energy to stave off an enemy, half a world away. Now imagine a pre-woke world where creativity and ingenuity were embraced and individual initiative was rewarded – in those days the REAL luck component was only a step away.
The final step was to have been born to parents who appreciated the need for a good education[ii]. . . no; not in liberal arts and who were willing to make the painful sacrifices to ensure their children had the best opportunities the World could offer. With a loving, caring Mother, and a Father with an insatiable thirst for knowledge – that was luck[iii]Being born the middle child might have helped a little too.
I am truly blessed to be such a lucky guy.
Written: circa 1996
Published: April 2022
Reader feedback always appreciated[iv]… thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts
|↑i||I had invested four years of my time and less than a half-million dollars of my own money, then sold the Company to John Deere for $11 million.|
|↑ii||. . . no; not in liberal arts|
|↑iii||Being born the middle child might have helped a little too.|
|↑iv||… thoughtful commentary perhaps more so than shallow thoughts|