There is a scene in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” where Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas rides in his limousine with Bud Fox played by Charlie Sheen. Looking out the window of the limo, Gekko points to two men standing next to each other waiting for the light to change.
A man is wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. The other is a person on the street pushing a shopping cart. Gekko says to Bud Fox, “Are you going to tell me that 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 at 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 speak with him personally. Talk about luck!
How about something related to our daily experience? Did you eat at a restaurant last month? You are lucky to be alive. After all, the person who prepared the food did not decide on the day he ate there to put a little arsenic in the lettuce.
Have you flown on an airplane in the past year? Good for you, you were lucky enough to choose a flight performed by a pilot who valued his life as much as yours and the mechanics who made sure your plane was safe.
Are you alive? Do you think that is a silly question? Well, congratulations on being lucky enough to have parents (or whoever raised him) who raised him enough to make sure he got to this point.
My father’s parents emigrated from Russia in the early 20th century. Because I am American and not Russian with all the advantages that that implies, I am richer than 95% (99%?) Of the world and I am only in the middle of the middle class here.
Think about it: every day, even today, our survival is based on luck. We walk down the street and we are not mugged, shot, or run over by a car when we cross to the other side (not everyone will be so lucky). Our children go to school and return home safely (not everyone will be so lucky). We turn on the microwave and don’t get electrocuted (not everyone will be so lucky). Today we did not suffer from an incurable disease (not everyone will be so lucky).
Gordon Gekko, the man who claims to be superior to that person on the street, is lucky, although he probably attributes it to his “greed is good” spirit. Gekko tells Bud Fox, “See that building? I bought that building ten years ago. My first real estate deal. I sold it two years later and made a profit of $ 800,000.”
Do you think it was anything but luck that made Gekko’s building appreciate? How much did your house cost depreciate during the mortgage crisis? Gekko’s lucky moment was responsible for his winnings.
I am writing this because I hear people claim that they are “self-made” and many of these people, I am sure, worked hard for their achievements. But to take just one of a thousand potential examples, unless they’ve never eaten at a restaurant, “self-made” people owe their lives to the chef who didn’t poison them.
In fact, we are 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.