Luck is only a part of the equation

A friend of mine has been developing a business idea for several years. While still doing his regular work to earn a living, he and a partner have spent a significant amount of money on several prototypes and have gotten positive responses to them. They have spent countless hours and dollars building a marketing plan, designing trademarks, and pre-marketing the products. As is usually the case, they have run into roadblocks all along the way.

They are at the point of needing significant financing to begin full production, and deals have fallen through multiple times. Still, they persisted. They have finally made the right connection, a wealthy businessman who loves the product and will help in getting it up and running and in its distribution. It was only by chance that they met him, and the window of opportunity was exceedingly small. They caught his ear because they had first laid the groundwork, were committed, and were enthusiastic about the product and its prospects.

They aren’t all the way to the finish line yet, but they will get there unless they make a very big blunder. There is a significant and growing probability that the partners will eventually be wealthy men. Good for them. They are lessons in what it takes to make an idea a reality. They kept going when most would quit. They invested themselves and their resources toward a goal when there was no reason that they needed to.

It is certain that what we might call pure luck played a part in getting where they are, but luck or fate or whatever you want to call it, good and bad, play a part in everyone’s life. The partners just happened to be at the right place at the right time, but they had already paid the price of admission to the entrepreneur’s club, and that is the key difference.

Most people have thousands of good ideas throughout their lives, things that could change lives if only they could make them reality, but the missing ingredient for them is action. The ideas remain in the brain. Unless action is taken, usually over a long time and in spite of serious setbacks, luck just passes them by without them even noticing.

Some people inherit their wealth and live a life of luxury without paying the price, and those are the one’s who make the news, but that is the kind of person that makes up the surprising statistic that approximately 90 percent of family wealth is dissipated by the third generation. Either money is frittered away through conspicuous consumption or businesses are lost. The later generations don’t have the vision and skills of the original wealth-builder. A large portion of the nation’s millionaires is first-generation wealth. They built it in their own lifetime.

What makes a society good, effective, and enjoyable, though, has to do with more than wealth and business. Other types of institutions, like charitable, educational, and fraternal organizations, provide outlets for creativity and fellowship and produce a wide variety of services and activities that enrich communities and give them their unique flavors. Progress in society is driven by innovators in every type of endeavor, and they are the ones with the vision, the drive, and the persistence to turn ideas into action and positive outcomes.

Most organizations that are not for profit, however, are net consumers of resources. The only way they can exist is through the funding generated by profit-making business. That wealth is distributed as wages, payments to suppliers, and so on, which, in turn, provides the resources needed for benevolence and for many other things that make living in community worthwhile. That takes a lot more than luck.

Dan McLaughlin, a Randolph resident, is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at