Planning Versus Luck, or Planning For Luck?

One of Australia’s richest men and biggest names in property, Harry Triguboff, said in an interview a couple of years back that he did not set out to make a lot of money: the money came by itself.
The founding entrepreneur of one of the most successful newsletter publishing companies in the world – Bill Bonner of Agora – memorably commented ‘… we don’t get where we intended to go but end up where we ought to be. Basically you go along and you don’t quite know where you’re going when somebody comes along or something happens and gives you a bit of energy. Sometimes it’s the kindness of strangers. You may not have the right idea, but the combination works. That’s how things really happen. You go from one failure to the next. It’s all hit or miss. And it evolves. You do nothing to stymie or top it. You put in energy. You let it happen.’
Bo Peabody, an American entrepreneur who got rich in the tech-boom and got out just in time, deliberated on the issue of whether striking a fortune is due to being lucky or smart. He decided that it centres on being smart enough to realise that you’re lucky.
While the business and self-improvement literature is replete with calls to set goals and admonitions such as ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’, one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, says that one of his advantages is that he doesn’t have a plan and so doesn’t feel the need to proceed in a certain direction, but rather can decide what makes sense and compare the opportunities open to him. While he knew what he wanted to achieve from the outset, the astronomical results he accomplished didn’t spring from a master plan; he had no idea of the specific opportunities that might make it possible to achieve what he wanted to accomplish.
That’s a big difference in orientation, and one with a seemingly profound difference in results!
Why insist on proceeding down a certain path if (a) circumstances will likely render your planned results irrelevant or obsolete and (b) it restricts the opportunities (and potentially, the good luck) available to you? That sounds like planning to reduce wealth!
Of course nothing of this is to say that you should be disorganised. Rather it is to say that trying to plan those things which are in reality in the lap of the gods is a futile undertaking which can actually inhibit the achievement of results. What planning there is should be about being in the game of business and enhancing your readiness and ability to play. It should be about getting into position so you are able to benefit from good luck.
And bear in mind there are no guarantees. So much of our planning is really about trying to force an outcome, to rid ourselves absolutely of uncertainty. But that is a futile undertaking.
The take-out is to be organised such that good luck can fall your way, but that you won’t have food taken off the table if it doesn’t. It’s about being open to opportunities and being ready to make the most of them when they come along. And it’s about accepting that it won’t all happen the way you think it should, no matter how much you think it should.

But with plenty of success to point to, that seems like a chance worth taking.


© Michael Carman 2010