Luck and Timing

Most people at the beginning of their careers have no idea how much luck and timing will play a role in their lives. Talk to anyone middle aged or older and they will point to numerous moments that were completely random and provided a turning point for their lives.

For myself, I can think of several.

  1. Had I not gone with my cousin to Jack Demsey’s bar on St. Patrick’s Day in 1994, I would not have the wife and kids that I have, nor live in the place I live. I would likely have had a completely different life. That one night changed the course of my life dramatically.
  2. Had I not met Lisa Sheehan, when I moved to the Bay Area in 2002, I would not have worked with John Gibbon (a lifelong mentor of mine), nor been introduced to the Marketo founding team (Phil Fernandez, Jon Miller, and David Morandi). Both of those jobs formed the foundation for my career as a designer and leader. At Marketo I met Raj Rajamani which means without Lisa (or Raj), I wouldn’t currently have my current position. Had I stayed at Marketo 1 extra year, I would have had 4 years of stock automatically vested. This would have changed my financial reality tremendously, but who knows what would have happened after that.
  3. Had my wife’s friend Charlene not invited me to play in her women’s tennis practice on time in 2012, I would not have discovered USTA and made tennis my primary recreational and exercise activity. Thank you Aki, Wanda, and Charlene for playing with me and introducing me to Rick!

Each experience leads to another. Even my bad experiences had as much to do with luck and timing and anything else.

A counter example is that I was interviewing at a company called Grand Central in 2006. They were taking too long to get their funding, so I ended up taking a position at Intuit. 2 weeks later, Grand Central had the funding, but I felt guilty and said I should keep working at Intuit. 18 months later, they sold to Google for 350 million dollars. Timing was 2 weeks off for me to have had a very different career path.

Which job you get, which person you marry, what you do everyday is informed by what came before. When you are interviewing for a job, you are doing so at a moment in time. How many jobs might have been perfect for you, but you were 2 weeks off.

I find this the most confounding part of life. We can only understand our path in hindsight. We can not A/B test our lives. We can not plan for luck. However, we are not just twigs floating on the river of life either. I believe we have some agency in our lives. Considering the following chart:

You have control over your own knowledge and capabilities. You can read books, watch videos, practice, get lessons, etc. You can talk with as many people as you can. You have to put yourself out there to meet people. You won’t meet your future partners if you stay in your apartment every day.

Put yourself into situations where luck can happen. And when life throws you a twist or an opportunity, make the most of it. Work hard, be creative, improve yourself, and make connections.

Maybe this post is not that helpful in the end, but I hope it gives you hope and energy to know your best days may still be ahead of you. Make yourself ready for when luck knocks on the door.


Whatya think?