The unknown force

List 1: Anil Kumble. Roger Federer. Vinod Khosla. Deepak Parikh

List 2: Rajinder Goel. Monica Seles. Ved Prakash Arya. Ashok Kapur 

These are two lists of names, carefully pruned, for a factor that we are about to discuss in detail. You immediately recognize the names on list-one for the magnitude of each person’s achievement. Of course, these are people who deserve every accolade they have received. They have worked very hard to get to where they are, made the right choices, grabbed opportunities that came by and, above all, had the perseverance and drive to win over a long period of time. 

However, I believe, there is one word that often gets left out while describing these achievers. The word is called ‘luck’. Several people believe, by adding the word ‘luck’ to this list, it somehow takes away all the hard work, passion and commitment of the person. After all, greatness is the result of doing the right things, they say. 

Now look closely at the second list of names. Rajinder Goel, a name you’ve probably never heard before, was a cricketer who picked 644 wickets in Ranji Trophy (the local Indian cricket league) at an average of 18 runs per wicket. He didn’t get a chance to play a single test match for India, simply because he was born in the same era as India’s famous spin quartet – Bedi, Prasanna, Venkatraghavan and Chandrashekar. Had Goel been born in the same era as Kumble, you never know what could have happened. Had the selectors given him a chance to play only one series, Goel may have grabbed the opportunity and achieved greatness in international cricket as well. 

Monica Seles, the other person on list two, was dominating women’s tennis when she got stabbed by a rival’s mentally ill fan. At the time, she had eight grand slam titles to her credit and was at the peak of her career, but thanks to sheer bad luck, she was never the same again. Private Equity investor Ved Prakash Arya died in tragic fashion when a coconut tree fell on his head and Yes Bank promoter Ashok Kapur, passed away in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. All these people had the potential to become revered stars in their own fields of work but perhaps what eluded them was luck. 

Maybe, I am quoting a few extreme cases here, but the point I am making is that, accept it or not, luck plays a significant role in your success. And, bad luck is a crucial element of failure for several hardworking people. Of course, we’ve heard all the slogans, some cynical: “The harder you work, the luckier you get”; “Success is simply a matter of luck, ask any failure” and so on. But in all that we say while celebrating success stories, we often fail to acknowledge the role of luck, primarily because it seems like we’re detracting from the role of hard work. 

At The Smart CEO, we want to wish you, our readers, a wonderful, happy, luck-filled, memorable 2016. And for that, we put together a special collection of stories, under the title “The Luck Factor”. We spoke to several CEOs, entrepreneurs and even an author, to get a perspective of how they perceive the role of luck in their successes. We also requested them to narrate anecdotes of how they got lucky, and why, and with the benefit of hindsight, they were able to appreciate the role played by lady luck. 

Let me end this note with one of my favorite quotes on this subject told by Tata Sons’ R. Gopalakrishnan when he interviewed with us. He simply said, “The origins of success are much too subtle and complex. We all feel that there is something called luck.”  

Good luck for a wonderful year ahead. Hope you enjoy reading this edition.