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Does Pure Chance Have Anything to Do with Success?

Aug 17, 2007
Gambling has reached epic proportions in the United States. Buying a ticket to win the lottery is a weekly activity for millions of our citizens. The chance of winning big is the driving force for gambling even though the odds of winning are millions to one in the lottery case.

What role does blind chance play for our permanent success?

Did any of our greatest inventions come because of blind chance?

An individual may leap into sudden fortune with a single bound like Superman, without effort or foresight. However, it is doubtful if any great permanent success ever was the outcome of blind chance.

One of the old adages, "Trust to luck," that time has kept in unmerited circulation, is a bad one. The person who trusts luck for his clothing is apt to wear rags, and one who depends on it for food is sure to go hungry.

We hear a great deal about the wonderful things chance has wrought, but we seldom take the time to examine them.

We know that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was sitting in his garden one-day and, "Chanced to see an apple fall to the ground." This set him to thinking. So much thinking, in fact, that he later discovered the laws of gravitation. Newton, a mathematician and physicist, is one of the foremost scientific intellects of all time.

Ever since the first apple fell from the first tree in Eden, people have been watching that very commonplace occurrence. Long before the existence of human kind, oranges, coconuts and all kinds of fruits and nuts have been falling to the ground.

Yet their falling set no one to thinking, simply because not one of the millions of people who "chanced" to see the fruit fall, "chanced" to have the reasoning powers of the great English scientist.

If the apple, instead of falling to the ground, had shot up, without visible cause, to the sky, then the dullest observer would have wondered, even if he did not attempt to find an explanation. The falling of the apple in Newton's garden was not a chance, but an ordinary incident, which was made much of in the mind of an extraordinary man.

Scottish engineer and inventor James Watt (1736-1819), "chanced" to see the lid of the kettle in his mother's kitchen lifted by the steam within. We may believe that this incident caused the origin of the engine invented by Watt. If no one else had ever witnessed a like phenomenon, then some consideration to the element of chance would be necessary. It was in the brain of Watt, however, and not in the lifting of the kettle lid, that the steam engine was born. There are no accidents in the progress of science.

In the same way, we may believe that Galileo discovered the telescope, Whitney the cotton gin, and Howe the sewing machine.

There, however, have been some curious cases of chance fortune. There was a man out hunting in California who made a misstep and plunged into a deep gulch in the Sierra Nevada. His gun was broken and he was slightly injured. He, however, was more that repaid for the accident by the discovery of a rich gold mine at the bottom.

What would you think of an individual, who, because of this discovery, would shoulder a gun and go into the mountains, hoping to fall into a gulch full of gold? If this person started out with this purpose in mind, the element of chance would not exist. Yet this individual would show just as much good sense as do the thousands who go through life, trusting luck, hoping for a miracle that never comes; hoping to get rich by the luck of the draw.

Success may be unforeseen, but it is a rare thing for it to come to the person who has not been preparing for it.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, "Neither the naked hand nor the understanding, left to it, can do much; the work is accomplished by instruments and helps, of which the need is not less for the understanding than the hand."

The Romans had a saying, which is as true today as when it was first uttered, "Opportunity has hair in front, behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her but if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again."

Accident contributes very little toward the production of any great result in life. Though sometimes a lucky score may result from bold venture, the common highway of steady hard work and purpose is the only safe road to travel.

The great Welsh landscape painter, Richard Wilson, when he had nearly finished a picture, would step back from it and after gazing earnestly on the work, would suddenly walk up and by a few bold touches give a brilliant finish to the painting. The ability to put these last vital touches required the labor of a lifetime; the probability that the artist who has not carefully trained beforehand, who attempted to produce a brilliant effect with a dash, will only produce a blotch.

Assiduous attention to detail and painstaking attention to the task always mark the true worker. The greatest successes come from those who do not "despise the day of small things," but those who improve them the most carefully.

Michael Angelo one day was explaining to a visitor at his studio what he had been doing to a statue since a previous visit. "I have retouched this part, polished that and softened this feature; brought out that muscle - given some expression to this lip, and more energy to that limb."

"But these are trifles," remarked the visitor. "It may be so," replied the great sculptor, "but recollect that trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."

Chance does not cause perfection.

Do not allow chance to establish your success.

Do not allow chance to determine your motivation.

Do not let chance to determine your leadership.

Copyright 2007 by Robert L. Bergeth
About the Author
Bob Bergeth currently consults with and leads hundreds of home-based entrepreneurs. His specialty is recruiting, training, motivating and leading. He has a Ph.D. and is President of International Mergers & Acquisitions. He publishes a popular newsletter, The Freedom Express: An Insiders Analysis of Home-based Businesses. Contact Bob at
Wealth Building 101 or http://www.mymangosteen.com/dream/
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