Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What if LUCK runs out? (Part 1)

February 2014, I met with an accident while driving back from work. It was around 21:30, when a truck hit my car. It crushed driving side door, bending it inwards. I had shift towards center of the car to avoid getting hit by the bending door. Seems very scary? It was. I was totally unharmed barring the mental trauma I went through that night. Interesting fact of the accident: Both vehicles, my car & the truck which hit me, were stuck in traffic with little or no room to move. Both of us tried to move ahead with limited space and I was caught between stand still traffic & this monster truck which did not see my car.

Being a senior manager at a big corporate, I have a habit of advising people to get to the root cause and try to control things that fall under their circle of control or influence. I thought; why not apply the same principle to this accident and figure out what went wrong. What can I do in future to avoid it? After much “due diligence”, I concluded to drive more carefully and leave rest to my luck.

Few months later, morning of 7th July 22, 2014, I was driving towards my office… Normal speed on relatively empty road, enjoying good music, accompanied by Amrita, everything “as usual”. I started slowing down my car as we were approaching a diversion. Just as my car came to halt to turn, I heard “BAM”… and it wasn't a sweet sound. A taxi rammed into us from behind. Driver’s excuse; I tried to apply brakes but the car did not stop in time. Amrita & I stood stunned; moment of silence was followed by an argument, which isn't relevant for this topic, so let’s move ahead. Yet again, my thinking cap was on. What went wrong this time? Was I driving too fast? No. Was I in wrong lane? No. Did I stop too suddenly? No. This time, after much detailed “due diligence” & “root cause analysis”, I blamed everything on my luck.

Week later, I was happy that my car was back from service center. They repaired everything which was damaged plus couple of things which were not broken but were old. I was prompt in passing on good feedback for my claim executive.  14th July 22, 2014, on my way back from work, it happened again. You must be laughing, but believe me, this incidence shook my confidence. There was heavy traffic; vehicles were barely moving, when a SUV hit my car. Why? Driver accidentally released brakes. This time, I had no energy to argue, I kept driving.

Over ten years of driving experience, never drove at high speeds, always cared about slow moving vehicles or pedestrians. Why was my car hit thrice in the same area within few months? I don’t know. Most of my well-wishers advised me to get divine blessing. Start visiting temple, focus on Gods with special powers, hang some stuff in your car to keep evil away, were some of them. None of them sounded logical but were the only options available, so I agreed to one of them.

I kept thinking about these accidents over the weekend. Is there anything I could do to avoid such thing in future? While contemplating about the reasons of these accidents, I wondered; what if I get stuck in a similar situation at my work? What if I cannot figure out reasons behind a problem? How would I be able to correct my action if I don’t know the real issue? Can I blame everything on luck if nothing works out?
During my 13+ years of professional journey, lot of people told me I was “lucky”. I was told my success is a result of my good luck. I would often have people complain about their bad luck and how things never work out for them. These comments lead me to find more about how few people have good luck and others don’t. 

I stumbled upon an article in 2012 which explains why some people seem to have all the luck. This article referred to the research done by Richard Wiseman. Richard is professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. Richard interviewed several people who considered themselves very lucky or very unlucky. The results reveal that although these people had almost no insight into the cause of their luck, their thoughts & behavior are responsible for much of their fortune. After several experiments & interviews, Richard claimed to have found the elusive “luck factors”.  1) Listen to your gut instincts – they are normally right. 2) Be open to new experiences and breaking your normal routine. 3) Spend a few moments each day remembering things that went well. 4) Visualize yourself being lucky before importance meeting or call.

I like Richard’s recommendations. I did apply some of his suggestions. I find them logical; in fact, I felt I have been practicing couple of them even before I read this article. So, what if you do everything advised by Richard and you still don’t get the desired outcome? This question haunted me for a while. How do I deal with failures in situation where I thought I had enough confidence, enough experience & executed the task with full conviction? Like in the case of my accidents.

My curiosities lead me to another book; "The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing" by Michael Mauboussin. I feel Michael untangles several layers of skill & luck, which eventually helps your decision making process. I made an attempt to connect some of his research with current business realities to develop my own simplistic way of explaining factors which contribute or influence outcomes.

More to come....

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