Drawing the Joker


What is luck? What makes something good luck or bad luck? Is it important and can you count on it?

Perhaps even more importantly, how much do you rely on luck instead of preparation?

During a discussion of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I heard the comment that “BP just drew the joker.” The gentleman went on to discuss that he suspected that most of the other oil companies had some or as many of the same bad habits. Of all those companies, it was just BP that had enough things finally go wrong to create a disaster.

In other words, it was only a matter of time before such an accident. BP just happened to be the one. It could have easily been any of the companies.

I would submit that if the oversight and safety process compromises made by BP are common on other oil rigs, then it is likely true that “BP just drew the joker.”

Of course, whether or not all the oil companies  have such bad habits I will never know. But it is my understanding that BP still took plenty of significant risks that increased their odds of a disaster, one that has since been a problem for the ecology, local economies, and their credibility. It is clear they were not properly prepared, had become complacent and, in areas, just arrogant.

Is it possible they could have done everything “right” and still had a disaster on their hands? Sure, few things are a 100% sure bet and especially when things are complex.

However, one of the ways many successful people and businesses have “good luck” is they make it. They prepare and they plan. They document, practice, review and learn. They know that just because they’ve not “drawn the joker” yet, it could be their turn soon. How good or bad a situation becomes is not all within their control. But those that properly prepare have decided they will have at least some control.

Great speakers make it look easy because they prepare and practice. Being at ease in a sales presentation, job interview, or project meeting is not just about comfort or being “a natural.” It is about the prior effort to improve skills and prepare in advance.

Planning and preparation does take effort. But as BP can likely tell you now, the effort to avert a disaster is less than the effort from making disaster welcome.

Whether you call it luck, fate, coincidence or something else, there are factors in life and business over which you have no control. But ceding all control to the winds of life without a regular effort to prepare or adjust is a personalized invitation for your own disaster.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.