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Monday, March 7,2011

Are Some People Just Lucky in Business?

By Deborah Brown, Ph.D., MBA  

Are Some People Just Lucky in Business?

When you read the news, it might seem as if some business leaders lead charmed lives. They repeatedly win the top sales award, or they have a seemingly effortless climb up the corporate ladder in an enviably short period of time, or their newly launched business suddenly takes off after only a few months. Does that mean that some people are simply luckier in business than others? I don’t think so. Aesop’s 2600-year-old fable about the tortoise and the hare still applies today.


People who take the route of the tortoise take the time to lay the groundwork for their career advancement – a firm foundation for their success. They relentlessly pursue the education,a training, job rotation opportunities, networking opportunities, s t r e t c h g o a l s , p e r s o n a l development, leadership development, and/or other opportunities that help them move closer to their goals. Or they might advance their career through the professional relationships that they carefully cultivate within their team, their company, their community, and even the local/national media. All of these “tortoises” are more likely to succeed in the long run.

In contrast, people who take the route of the hare try to cut corners, take unethical shortcuts, and climb over people to succeed. These “hares” are more likely to see everything collapse in the long run. Maybe the inexperienced day trader who made $50K in a day will lose $100K the next day. Maybe the dotcom founder with a flimsy business plan who somehow raised $250K in venture capital will lose it all in six months. Maybe the unethical CEO who made headlines for innovative changes will be publicly disgraced when an ethics breach comes to light.

So if someone accelerates past you, take courage in knowing that luck probably had little to do with it. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” A business leader who seems incredibly lucky is most likely 1) a tortoise who laid a stronger foundation than you know, or 2) a hare who will lose to a tortoise eventually.


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