The United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, writing yesterday said that “We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy.” And where nuclear arms’ misunderstandings are concerned, I can’t think of more accurate assessment. 

Don’t know about you, but I’ve left an awful lot to trust. It’s pretty much my default, well, er, strategy. How can it be otherwise? You can’t ‘legislate’ for life outcomes, and even if you think you can – as politician’s do, through the deluded intention of legislation (pre- or post White Papers and inflicted through enacted law) – no strategy survives intact once it comes into contact with the real world (as any General will attest, if they’re honest, to strategies planned to win battles.)

However hard you try to will something to happen in business, so much of what you hope (plan?) to fall into place is way beyond your control, To believe otherwise is to place your faith in the hands of the reverse-ferret. Those whose default behaviour is to believe they possess a super-human power and claim what they said would come to pass, did – despite often the opposite happening. And then declaring what happened was exactly what their strategy didn’t intend to do, but did.

I can’t believe I just typed that. Welcome to the surreal-delusion that is UK political policy-promising right now. Agency-bollocks has nothing on them.

Outside of the bubble of wannabe leaders, in any part of our lives, certainly is a seriously damaging illusion. Unless you happen to be able to exercise the kind of control that would significantly effect the outcome. Like bribes. I mean sweeteners. Sponsorship. Or the decision-maker being family.

The gift of those who win (or appear to) is that they can post-rationalise the result as the outcome of careful planning – or, as one specifically slippery example baldly and shamelessly expressed to the press on Tuesday, that they were “wrong, but for the right reasons.”

Take pitches. Whether free or paid, winning them? Down to luck.

Sure, you can shorten the odds with all kinds of application – previous experience, sector knowledge, incumbency, enthusiasm. All good, but still no guarantee of success.

Ignoring all the circumstances that conspire to the end result – pretending that luck wasn’t the secret heart of that success – points to something more worrying that faith and hope; denial.  

Being slippery with the truth of what determined the success you gained (winning what you want) reveals a good deal about something I’ve believed in for a long while – namely, that the fallacy of certainty leads to al kinds of delusions, most significantly that you can will the outcome you want, into being.

Which all sounds a bit like a recipe for just giving up. But it’s not. Sometimes you just need to trust to luck, and then celebrate the luck you ‘made’ if you win. And feel less bad when you seem to have lost as you didn’t; it’s just luck, and luck doesn’t hate you or make what you do less valuable or worthwhile.

And if someone ‘in charge’ seems absolutely sure of an outcome that you’re depending on, ask yourself if you’d put your next month’s salary on the bet. Maybe that’d shorten the certainty odds.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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