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Lucky Generals

“I would rather have a general who was lucky than one who was good” (Napoleon Bonaparte)


I thought of this saying, and it seemed weird to me on a few levels:
  • Luck is not something you can build on, not in life, not in business, definitely not in war… It can be with you, and it can go with someone else…
  • Isn’t it that when you’re good, luck is not a factor? Invest in your infrastructure, make sure you have alternate plans, and then ‘luck has nothing to do with it’…
  • Luck has a sense of subjectivity (how do you define a lucky person? if someone won the lottery, but also has a chronic sickness, are they lucky?). “One man’s loss is another man’s gain” and vice versa…


So after pondering about it some more, I realized that:
  • Some people believe that if they only had the right break, a little more luck, they could have been in a much better place. Maybe…
  • Many people wish for/fantasize about a Cinderella story, where all you need is for your foot to fit in the right shoe, and you’ll live happily ever after…
    • (but forget that Cinderella had difficult life until then, which didn’t stop her from believing, working hard, and also having the talent to impress a prince when the opportunity finally arrived).



However…

  • Many successful people attribute at least part of their success to luck (external factors) while connecting their failures to themselves (internal factors). This is related (though not exactly) to Defensive Pessimism.


The Lucky Generals, the ones who understand success requires both work and luck, and understand their focus should be internal in order to recover and learn from failures, are the ones you want on board. Those people will be there at the right moment to pick up the ball and make the best out of the opportunity, which will serve both them and their surroundings best.