Being Successful: Is it Hard Work or Luck?

Many wealthy, successful Americans regale us with stories of how they worked their rears off to get to where they are. Living proof, they say, that hard work can propel you to heights you cannot imagine. I don’t doubt their stories; I worked hard too. But along with that hard work came something no one seems to acknowledge: Luck.

Understandable, for luck says nothing about your smarts or talent or beauty. Luck is a happy accident. Seize it and make it work for you and nine times out of 10, you’re golden. I’m not saying only luck brings success. Hard work is necessary too, but it is not sufficient. Did I work harder or think better than hundreds of thousands of others? I would love to say yes, but although I tried to outsmart my competitors, I know I would not be where I am today, without “Lady Luck” on my side.

I was hired in the middle 60’s by Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. as an office manager with no previous experience in the tire and service business. I was an experiment, suggested by the area manager, who wanted to see if he could hire “outsiders” who were smart enough to learn and cut down on the heavy turnover at that position. My first bit of “luck”.

hard-work

It was a small, but busy store in Delray Beach, Florida. I learned that job by working long hours and many, many weekends. This was, I feel, my share of “hard work”. One day the area manager called to say he needed me to fill in for the vacationing office manager at the large downtown store in nearby West Palm Beach. I gladly went with the thought that I would be returning. As “luck” would have it, the office manager decided it was time to retire and I became the office manager of a very large commercial store in a very large city. Hard work and luck, hand in hand, playing out their roles

Another year or two went by, and yet another call came for me to fill in at the Riviera Beach store, this time as acting store manager. A few weeks later I was sent to Akron, Ohio for store manager training. After returning, I managed that store until the middle 70’s. Firestone, under new leadership, consolidated its stores inventories and closed some of the smaller stores that were competing with the larger ones. My store was closed and I was out of a job and looking for another position. A bit of “bad’ luck it seems.

Tire Kingdom was just getting started in that time period, and after many interviews, I was promised a job in a near-by city, but with an unknown starting date. The store was still under construction and having permitting problems. More “bad’ luck.

While waiting for that opportunity, I took a “temporary” job at a roof truss company in Lake Worth, Florida. A friend of my wife’s husband was the General Manager there, and I got a job catching and stacking wood off the chord saw. This was one of the least-skilled positions in the manufacturing facility. It was hard work and it took several weeks to acclimate my body to the job. I watched as the sawyer set the saw blades to the various angles and lengths needed for the parts, asked questions as to what was happening and learned. Time went by and I realized that the tire company job was gone, so continued my learning process in the truss industry.

opportunity-knocking

Summer came and the sawyer went on vacation. I moved around to the front of the machine and proceeded to cut chords, based on what I had observed and questioned. The shop manager came over, saw what I was doing and gave me the go ahead after checking a few parts. Well guess what, the returning sawyer never got to run that saw machine again! The job was mine to lose and I wasn’t losing it. My “hard work” had paid off, but without a bit of “luck” thrown in, I wouldn’t even have had the chance. I went on from there and moved into the office to learn truss design. It wasn’t long before I was asked to begin managing a satellite plant the company owned.

35 years later, I have managed design departments in small and large companies during my career. I have designed just about everything you can think of, beginning back in the days of using a Jobber calculator to manually calculate the heels and loading. Today, I am the Design Administrator for my son’s company and he has me handling website design, cloud servers and all this technological stuff that didn’t even exist a decade or two ago.

Luck, by definition, means a chance happening of fortunate events. And I would argue that far too few middle-class Americans are now experiencing the same “happening of fortunate events” that I did. The majority of middle-class people are struggling not because they don’t work as hard as the most successful Americans, but because it takes more than sweat to succeed and the odds are tougher in 2014.

It’s time for our leaders to help people turn their luck around and allow some more opportunities to knock.

Richard Gould – Design Administrator

Gould Design, Inc.