Feelin’ lucky? The role of luck in success

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across a few articles and quotes about the role of luck in success. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in Outliers – how success many times can be attributed to factors outside of the subject’s control.  Jim Collins kind of agrees in this excerpt of his new book “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All” but believes luck is more the catalyst than the cause.

I’m obviously not in Bills Gates’ league, at least not yet :), but I do think luck and timing have a ton to do with success, and I know this first-hand; if it weren’t for luck, I believe I wouldn’t be the Director of Strategic Marketing for the Washington Capitals.

I was at NYU Stern getting my MBA with hopes to start my career in the sports industry.  I attended a sports panel at the Media and Entertainment Conference at NYU, on which my current boss, Joe, was a speaker. After the panel, I introduced myself to Joe learned that he was also a Georgia Tech alumnus, which allowed us to converse easily. Over the next year or so, we kept in touch and when he became the Director of Marketing of the Washington Capitals, he tried to contact me to interview for an open position but lost my email address. Luckily we were connected on LinkedIn; we got in contact, I interviewed with him and his boss and got the gig. I later found out that there was a chance that Joe couldn’t make the conference but luckily he did.

Sure, one can say that I worked hard to prepare for that moment. I studied hard to get into schools like Georgia Tech and NYU, I was outgoing enough to network with people in my desired industry, I was persistent enough to keep in touch with Joe for a long time, I interviewed well, and I’ve worked hard since I started at the Caps.  But if Joe didn’t make the conference, if he didn’t happen to attend Georgia Tech, and if one or both of us weren’t registered for LinkedIn, I may not be working for the Caps nor would I be writing this blog post.

Do you think luck and timing are big factors in success, or do you attribute success solely to hard work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Feelin’ lucky? The role of luck in success

  1. It guess you can call “luck”. However one’s motivation and drive will set yourself up for these “lucky” situations. If you weren’t persistent enough to surround yourself with like-minded people, or keeping in touch with people, or studying through college and grad school to get good grades and pick up skills that get you interviews and jobs. These all bring you to the next step…no matter how lucky you can be.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I agree with you and Joseph. More specifically, I think that luck plays a smaller role in enabling success but a larger role in determining the available paths to success. I think that those who work hard to achieve success will find it.

    “The way in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort.”
    -Justice Oliver Holmes


    Patrick Costello
    “Empowering the Video Viewing Community”

  3. Dear Michael,

    I enjoyed reading your newest blog. I am too a fan of Jim Collins and am looking forward to reading his newest book. This post, was a reminder for me to go out and buy it!

    Personally, I think luck plays a small part in ones success. Luck is defined as by chance rather than ones own actions. In many ways, your own actions, the hard work you put in to to both building your personal wealth of knowledge and experiences as well as marketing yourself helps in finding and meeting guys like Joe, your now current boss. This drive and passion to succeed could have led you to a Mike or a Marcy who could have opened doors just as great as the washington Capitals. This though, seems like a wonderful serendipitous story. But if you had not been ambitious yourself, to want to study hard to go to college and attend grad school at NYU you may not even have been yourself at that conference.

    I feel in life, if you work hard good things happen. You’ve certainly worked hard, and now having had this serendipitous meeting with Joe in the past led you to what is now your current job with the Washington Capitals.

    Your post was enjoyable to read. I look forward to reading more of them.


    Joseph Sommer
    LR Paris, LLC
    “Unique Corporate Gifts”

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Thanks! I hope to blog more often, but this job at the Caps is killing me! 🙂

      I agree. It’s mostly hard work that defines success but luck definitely plays a part.

      Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.