The Smart, the Talented and the Lucky

The fickle randomness of the phenomenon called luck fascinates me.  I wonder why luck seems to so often reward people who don’t seem to deserve its favor and punish those who are good and hardworking people.  Luck is maddeningly capricious.  Who among us has not worked and planned and calculated the possibility for the success of a certain project, only to have it fall through and at another time, be amazed at the success of another project that has been given only casual thought and little effort?

I know quite a few people who’ve been very, very lucky in life.  Some have made the most of their good luck and others have squandered it (but they still do sort of OK, because they are lucky).  I’ve noticed that other than a man with whom I worked for a number of years, who was often very lucky and acknowledged his good fortune, people who are lucky do not believe in luck.  They actually believe that they can make all sorts of wonderful things happen all by their lonesome.  Some tell me that they pray and their chosen Deity answers their prayers.  Some tell me that they visualize what they want to happen and so it is given to them.  Still others claim that they always plan carefully and their plans yield the expected results, nearly always.  Riiiiight!

What my fortunate friends do not realize is that the answer to a prayer can be “No,” that plans can fall apart because they often depend upon certain critical factors falling into place, that is, good luck is an unacknowledged ingredient of the plan; and that one can visualize a future that seems fully attainable, not at all grandiose and yet the process can yield nothing but daydreams and disappointment.

My lucky pals are as clueless as The Fool pictured above, because they can afford to be.  I have seen certain of them (metaphorically) ready to step off a cliff when the ground somehow rises up to meet them so they do not stumble.  In my life, when in a similar circumstance, I’ve been thrilled to see a nice bridge appear to rescue me, only to be horrified when it turns out to have been built by the folks who engineered the amazing bridge at Florida International University.  Sigh.

In a 2017 study conducted at the University of Catania in Sicily (Sicilians absolutely believe in luck and if you are Sicilian or Italian—yes, they are different!— you will know this to be true).  Alessio Biondo, Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Rapisarda created a computer model of 1000 virtual people.  Some of the virtual subjects were given more intelligence, talent, or money and others less, in an attempt to simulate real life.  During a 40-year “career,” certain virtual subjects received “lucky events,” i.e., opportunities to boost their careers that their intelligence or talent could help them exploit.  But some were made to suffer “unlucky events” that took away some of their career advancement and money.  At the end of the 40-year “career,” the scientists examined the characteristics of the wealthiest virtual people.

The results showed that while intelligence, talent and wealth play a role in the achievement of success, those who rose to the top were almost always the recipients of “lucky events.” Lead researcher Alessandro Pluchino wrote, ” It is evident that the most successful individuals are also the luckiest ones and the less successful individuals are also the unluckiest ones.” The study also reinforced the validity of the Pareto Principle, known as the 80/20 Rule, meaning that 80% of the wealth in the virtual society wound up in the hands of 20% of the population, as it does in real-world societies.

That 80/20 distribution does not correspond with the distribution of intelligence and talent. “The maximum success never coincides with the maximum talent and vice versa,” noted the researchers. “Our simulation clearly shows that such a factor is just pure luck.”  Pluchino and his team showed this by ranking the virtual subjects by the number of lucky and unlucky events each experienced in their simulated careers.  The most successful individuals had the most good luck and the least successful had the most bad luck.

So now what? Do those who are short-changed by good luck just roll with the punches? I mean, these findings, although most likely accurate, run counter to the American can-do, Horatio Alger spirit.  One must take charge of life and never knuckle under to unfortunate events or unsavory people.

I suggest that the best way to bring good luck, or at least minimize bad luck, is to introduce Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese system, into your home and office.  Eight years ago, I wrote about exploring Feng Shui.  You can play catch-up here.

In short, start by cleaning and organizing your home and office.  De-clutter and organize because qi, good energy, likes order.  Give yourself a harmonious environment and you are almost guaranteed to feel more relaxed, less frazzled and more confident.  Because you will become more calm and centered, you’ll function more effectively in your professional and personal lives.  I think it could be successfully argued that you’ll be positioned to more easily recognize both potentially good and bad events along your path.  You can then gravitate to the former and avoid, or at least mitigate, the latter.

Feng Shui will probably not replace an overabundance of bad luck with good fortune, but you’ll most likely be able to grab whatever good luck crumbs come your way and that’ll be about as good as it’s going to get.

Thanks for reading,


Image: The Fool, from the ancient tarot card deck. In a tarot card reading, The Fool represents one’s potential and abilities and also new beginnings.  He is young, lucky, light-hearted and blissfully unaware of potential limitations and danger.


Freelancers: Agile Talent For Your Organization

While cruising through the Harvard Business Review online, I happened upon an article that told of a most interesting book that has good information for Freelance consultants and those who hire us.  Agile Talent was written by two experts in the talent development, leadership and strategic HR fields,  Jon Younger and Norm Smallwood and published just last month.

The book was written as a guide for the growing number of organizations that rely on professionals like us to come through in the clutch and get the job done,  on time and within budget.  Getting the most out of a team comprised of internal and external talent is the book’s theme.  I read an excerpt and confirmed that within,  the book contains as well a few pearls of wisdom for you and me,  primarily providing us with a new and improved way to package and promote our services to potential clients.

As Smallwood and Younger point out, so many organizations–for-profit and not-for-profit, late-stage and start-up, large and small–continue to rely on Freelance consultants to augment their lean workforces when insufficient expertise (or time) exists in-house.  Salaries are a large fixed expense on Income Statements and organizations for 30 years have been loathe to hire a worker unless the skill set is frequently needed to keep the business operating.  The authors provide useful recommendations to those who hire,  collaborate with or manage the external talent,  so that good outcomes for all parties can result.

Agile Talent Freelancers allow organizations to access the services needed only for the scope aand length of time that the organization requires.  We bring great insight, heightened productivity and relevant experience to countless organizations.  Yet organization decision-makers and those with whom we collaborate are sometimes unsure of what to expect from the arrangement with the agile talent,  or how to successfully onboard and work with us.

In order to maintain or expand our billable hours,  it is imperative that we are able to anticipate how the relationship might go off the rails and come to an unfortunate parting of the ways.  Before encountering a prospective client,  we must communicate our benefits  to them.  Packaging and promotion are essential when selling an intangible service.  Intangibles are the most difficult sale and in the knowledge economy,  these specialties represent a large percentage of B2B sales dollars.

So how can we exert some measure of influence and get ourselves paid?  It is aalways necessary for us to sell our expertise,  trustworthiness and usefulness.  When organizations are faced with a….

  • Project
  • Challenge
  • Opportunity

….the agile (or external) talent tag line gives us another way to communicate our benefits to decision-makers.  Incorporating the resonant buzz words makes us look smart and capable and makes hiring managers and project sponsors feel that they’ll look smart to superiors and subordinates when they bring us on.  Inertia,  that is,  tabling a decision indefinitely because leaders lack the confidence to move forward except in the most obvious emergencies,  is the  Freelance consultants most formidable competitor.  Anything that we can do or say to persuade prospects to become clients is a win-win.

Thanks for reading,