This one really grinds my gears. I’ve heard it all my life, and from people who should know better. I remember my dad saying this when I was younger, and I heard Jocko Willink say it on a recent podcast. Am I missing something?
Let’s look at this critically: “I’d rather be lucky than good.” The speaker is saying that they would willingly give up skill, something over which they exert complete control, for luck, something over which they have absolutely zero control. That completely goes against everything I am.
If I’m good at something, then I usually do well. If I have an unlucky break, I’ll do mediocre. If I get a little bit of good luck, I’ll do great.
If I rely on luck instead of skill, I will usually do mediocre. With some bad luck I’ll drop to poor performance, and good luck only lifts me to doing well.
Let’s look at it visually:
No matter what luck throws your way, you’re always better off being skilled. No matter what. More skill allows you to make up for bad luck and pick up the slack of others. More skill allows you to capitalize on good luck. Unskilled practitioners have a harder time making up for bad luck and cannot adequately compensate for the deficiencies of others. Lack of skill keeps you from capitalizing on good luck when it comes your way. In fact, lack of skill makes things that would be opportunities for a skilled individual completely unusable. Not only does lack of skill keep you from capitalizing on opportunities that come your way, it also keeps opportunities from presenting themselves at all.
Here’s a quote for you:
“‘Luck’ is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” -Seneca
That’s more like it. The mindset that luck is somehow better than or trade-able for skill is both wrong and fatalistic. The fact is that skill is really a necessary prerequisite for luck. I’ll take skill over luck 11 times out of 10.
I’ll leave you with this little gem:
“The harder I work, the more lucky I get.” -Thomas Jefferson
See you next Friday.