There’s a scene in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” where Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas is riding in his limousine with Bud Fox played by Charlie Sheen. Looking out the window of the limo, Gekko points out two men standing side by side waiting for the light to change.
One man is wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. The other is a street person pushing a shopping cart. Gekko says to Bud Fox, “You gonna tell me the difference between this guy and that guy is luck?”
The answer to Gekko’s question is a resounding, “Yes.” It’s all about luck.
Take Steve Jobs. Jobs’ luck in being born in what became Silicon Valley and not, say, Toledo, Ohio led directly to the creation of Apple. His neighbors worked for Hewlett Packard. His classmate was Wozniak. He was surrounded by a culture of experimentation. Because of these connections, he was able to call David Packard and talk to him personally. Talk about luck!
How about something germane to our daily experience? Did you eat in a restaurant in the last month? You’re lucky to be alive. After all, the person preparing the food didn’t decide on the day you ate there to put a little arsenic in the lettuce.
Have you flown on an airplane in the past year? Good for you that you were lucky enough to choose a flight flown by a pilot who valued his life as much as he valued yours and mechanics who made sure your plane was safe.
Are you alive? Do you think that’s a silly question? Well, congratulations on being lucky to have had parents (or whoever raised you) who nurtured you enough to ensure that you made it to this point.
My father’s parents emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s. Because I’m an American and not a Russian with all the advantages that implies, I’m richer than 95% (99%?) of the world and I’m only in the middle of the middle class here.
Think about it: Every day, including today, our survival is based on luck. We walk down the street and don’t get mugged or shot or run down by a car as we cross to the other side (not everyone will be so lucky). Our children go to school and come home safely (not everyone will be so lucky). We plug in the microwave and don’t get electrocuted (not everyone will be so lucky). We didn’t come down with an incurable disease today (not everyone will be so lucky).
Gordon Gekko, the man who claims to be superior to that street person, is lucky, although he’d probably attribute it to his “greed is good” ethos. Gekko says to Bud Fox, ” You see that building? I bought that building ten years ago. My first real estate deal. Sold it two years later, made an $800,000 profit.”
Do you think it was anything but luck that caused Gekko’s building to appreciate? How much did your house depreciate during the mortgage crisis? Gekko’s lucky timing was responsible for his profit.
I’m writing this because I hear people claim that they are “self made” and many of these people, I’m sure, worked hard for their achievements. But to take just one of a thousand potential examples, unless they’ve never eaten in a restaurant, “self made” people owe their lives to the chef who didn’t poison them.
In fact, we’re so lucky that we take our luck for granted when we should be grateful.
I wish you all the luck in the world. May today be your lucky day.