PREPARATION vs. LUCK

Lately, it seems, I often hear “Luck” used as an excuse.  People complain that luck was either against them or in favor of someone else.  It’s rather convenient to explain someone else’s achievement to luck rather than competence.

I recently did a series of articles for Gene Perret’s ROUND TABLE on striving for excellence in one’s profession.  The group of articles advocates improvement, getting better and better at what you do, preparing yourself for success in your career.  Some people object to that.  They say, “I don’t care how much you improve or how good you get, it still takes luck to make it.”

There’s no denying that luck is involved in most endeavors.  Rather than luck, though, let’s call it random happenings.  In any series of events, some will be beneficial, some will be detrimental.  That’s unavoidable.  The question, though, is whether those random happenings determine the outcome of our pursuit.

The other question we should ask is whether solid preparation in our profession guarantees the results we seek.

My suggestion is that neither one of these is the hero or the culprit in our journey and its ultimate destination.  Luck alone won’t make you a star.  Neither will preparation guarantee the results you want on its own.  One important difference is that none of us can control luck or random circumstances.  But we do have input to our preparation, our excellence, our competence within our profession.

An important factor to remember is that luck, no matter how fortuitous it may be, will not benefit us unless we are prepared.  There was a true tale from years ago about a young vocalist who was invited to perform at a banquet honoring a well-known television performer.  The youngster was talented, well-rehearsed, and ready to perform his heart out at this function.  His set was greeted with enthusiastic applause.  The celebrity guest of honor was so impressed by the talent, that he booked him on his TV show and that was the start of a career that grew into superstardom.

Being booked to perform that night was a stroke of luck.  But performing with skill and enthusiasm was the result of solid preparation.  The kid was ready when luck appeared.  So which was more important to his development – the single stroke of luck or the solid preparation so that he could perform like a professional?

I’m fairly certain that this particular TV star saw many people perform at functions he attended.  Did he sign them all to appear on his show?  No.  He signed the one who was ready.  That’s not luck; that’s preparation.

But let’s go back to discussing good and bad luck.  Suppose this talented youngster didn’t get the nod to perform at this banquet.  Bad luck for him.  Would that random circumstance have destroyed his career forever?  Would he have been condemned to a mediocre career instead of the superstardom that he went on to enjoy because he wasn’t on the bill that night?  What do you think?

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that if he was as solid a performer as he turned out to be, if it didn’t happen that night, it probably would have happened in some other way at some other time.  Excellence will be noted sooner or later by someone.

So, yes, luck will be a factor in your career.  However, it will only benefit you if you’re ready for it once it does appear.   So, my conclusion, again for what it’s worth, is that excellence and preparation will have more to do with your success than luck will.

Let us know your opinions.

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Gene’s series of articles on the Resistance to Improvement can be found on the Articles Page of ROUND TABLE.  The first article, “The Ultimate Goal” has just been posted.  ROUND TABLE is an online subscription newsletter for people interested in a career in comedy writing and performing.  You can subscribe at www.comedywritersroom.com.

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