Luck is made, not given

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering

Have you ever known someone who seemed blessed with the ability to excel at everything they tried? Perhaps in school there was an athlete in school who seemed to effortlessly excel or a student who never seemed to study but destroyed the grading curve by consistently recording a perfect score. Perhaps when you entered the business world, there was someone who always seemed to have the right answers or the ability to immediately solve any problem, no matter how complex. If you are like most of us, you find it difficult to understand why these people can breeze through life, seemingly without any effort. Why are they so lucky and we had to grind our way to success?

Throughout my life, I have been viewed as one of the “lucky ones” who, without any obvious effort, seems to succeed at whatever the undertaking. Varsity letters in sports and top academic marks were what others observed. What they did not see were the hours and hours spent preparing for sports and academics. Nothing came easy. Every success was built upon sweat and sleepless nights.

Upon entering the business world, the outward indicators were the ability to solve problems and create environments of sustained excellence. From other’s viewpoint, no matter what the challenge or how complex the problem, I have always been able to solve them. To share an example, during the days of polyester there were two or three major manufacturers and each guarded their processes almost to the point of paranoia. Just to go inside one of their plants required background checks, non-disclosure agreements and thorough screening when leaving. The engineering director of one of these companies invited me to help them resolve a chronic, unsolvable problem that caused frequent system blockage and days of downtime to clear the system. Despite a focused effort their brightest and best had not been able to resolve the problem. After they spent almost six hours explaining the problem and their attempts to solve it, they asked for my thoughts. Over the next hour, I was able to show them the solution to the problem. The immediate reaction was anger directed at my audacity. How was it possible that a young, still-green engineer could solve a problem that they had been unable to resolve in almost two years? What they did not understand—nor could I tell them—was that I had spent months in a competitor’s plant solving the same problem. The solution came only after countless hours of analysis and study. It most certainly was not instantaneous or easy, but they did not see that part.

I will not discount that people are not the same. But I do not believe that anyone is born “lucky” or has the ability to effortlessly succeed in life. Granted, some are born into a family business that guarantees an executive position or have connections that allow progression up the corporate ladder, but that does not make them successful. For the rest of us, luck has nothing to do with our success or failure. While genetics and intelligence quotient are factors that could limit or enhance one’s ability, determination and hard work are what matter most.

Individual success is dependent on two, and only two, factors: how badly you want to succeed and whether you are willing to pay the price. In my case, determination to break out of the cycle of working in textile mills that had been my parents’ life came early. My personal focus later expanded to a passion to help others succeed. The odds were stacked heavily against me, but determination, combined with a willingness to put forth whatever effort was necessary regardless of the level of effort, hours or sacrifices, allowed a measure of success.

Most people that I meet want to be successful. They express a desire to grow as a person, to earn a higher salary, to get a promotion and perhaps even gain entry into the “C” level of their corporation. When pushed, some of them are willing to put forth an effort to gain success. But a passion and absolute determination to succeed seems to be lacking in too many. Instead, they want to be one of the “lucky ones.” What they do not or cannot understand is that the “lucky ones” made their luck by having the passion and determination to succeed. Their efforts may not be obvious or visible, but that is what created their success—not luck. No one is born smart. No one is born to be successful. These are learned traits. The degree of success one achieves is directly proportional to the level of effort expended. There are no short cuts or means to ‘skate’ to the success. If you want to succeed, you have to work for it.

MOBLEY'S 32nd LAW:
“Luck is made, not given."

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at [email protected].

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

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