Luck is Hard Work Residue

Jul 09, 2024

I like to connect with some of my friends from time to time for happy hour after work. We catch up on what’s been going on and anything we want help working through. It’s great to talk things through and just relax with good friends. It was during one of these times recently that I found a great reminder in the top of a bottle of Coors.

I realize that not everyone enjoys the same beverages, so I’ll give some context. You can buy Coors Original in “stubby” bottles. The caps are a red twist-off, and there is a saying under each one. If you’re of a certain patina, you may remember finding the joke inside the wrapper of Laffy Taffy, and this is the grown-up version of that. The quotes are usually short (they are, after all, on a bottle cap) and witty.

Now back to happy hour. Prior to happy hour, I had just finished another day where some things landed right, and new opportunities aligned. This had been the third day in a row “luck” had seemingly been on my side, and I was feeling good. As the guys arrived, I twisted the cap on my beer, and it read “Luck is Hard Work Residue.” That cap has been sitting on my desk since then, and it’s the basis for this week’s thoughts.

There are a lot of ways to look at luck. Some people give it a lot of credit for outcomes, while others don’t believe in it. Personally, I think luck is a great way to describe imperfect outcome variation, and I think that’s what the bottle cap was getting at. My guess is that’s where the phrase “you make your own luck” comes from.

I’ve heard a story in the past about a farmhand that applies to work for a farmer. During the interview, the farmer asks why he should hire him. The farmhand replied, “because I can sleep through any storm.” Perplexed, the farmer hired him. A few months later, there was a mighty storm. The farmer jumped out of bed and ran out to help get the horses in but found them covered and fed inside the barn. He turned his attention to the equipment but found it all put away and protected. He then checked on the farmhand and found him fast asleep. He slept because he prepared, and it’s yesterday’s actions that often determine tomorrow’s outcomes. The luck I’d been experiencing prior to that happy hour was largely a result of months of effort. That effort came in the form of some early mornings, late nights, and great contributions from several teammates and partners. I said largely because it seems that even though you put in all the effort, there are times when it just doesn't go your way.

I’m blessed to have a wide network of friends, coworkers, and associates, and that has allowed me to gain perspective on the “lucky” people I interact with. As I thought about that bottle cap, I realized that there was a pattern of the “unlucky” being unprepared and unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary without the assurance of results. Conversely, the people I saw as generally “lucky” metaphorically sowed, fertilized, and tended the soil with the expectation of a future crop. They put in hard work in expectation and harvested a residual crop of luck.

That leads me to this week’s challenge… Ask yourself – do you feel lucky? Well punk, do ya? (I couldn’t resist.) In all seriousness, do people look at you like you are lucky all the time and are gifted the golden spoon, or are you the kind of person who says, “I just can’t buy a break”? Then take a hard look at your systems and how you prepare. For me personally, as I performed this exercise, I was able to find several things I needed to remove for greater preparedness and a couple of systems that I needed to add to ensure focused direction. It was a challenging exercise and one that I recommend you take.

I’m thankful that you went to work today, that you took the time to read this, and that you’re a part of what makes this world amazing.