Chance and Life

The lore goes – when Edison created the light bulb he said “I did not fail a thousand times, I just found a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb.”

Now, think about that for a minute.

If you tried to do something a thousand times. It shows determination but it also shows that you are just waiting for probability to kick in and show you the way. If you attempted the IIM entrance exam 1000 times, I am sure at some point you are bound to clear it. Even if you were going there unprepared and just marked A for all questions.

The CEO of Nokia at the time of the Microsoft acquisition was Stephen Elop. He said, “we did not do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.” In other words, it was sheer bad luck.

I often tell entrepreneurs to speak to those who have failed. They would be able to provide insights on the things that can trip you up. By comparison, someone who has succeeded will have little value to provide. In being successful, one would have certainly avoided several pitfalls. The trouble is, there are often more pitfalls that they avoided by sheer luck, which they did not even know existed, than the ones they avoided thoughtfully. 

Or as Bill Gates put it – Success is a poor teacher, it seduces smart people into thinking that they cannot lose.

Whether you are successful or not, there is a role that chance played in making it happen. We talk about chance only when something does not go our way. We never think about the role of chance in our life when things work out. WE just think that WE made it happen. 

We have gone to such extremes with this thinking that if someone were to succeed and you were to tell them, “it was your lucky day”; they would react as if you slapped them across their face. But someone who failed would love to palm off the responsibility of the failure to, “it wasn’t my day”.

Probability is real in everything we do. We need to learn to acknowledge it.






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