I Believe in Residue

It’s that time of year again – NCAA tournament time (a.k.a. “March Madness”) – when so-called Cinderella’s get “lucky” and upset a high-seed team; when young basketball stars make “lucky shots” from half court (or beyond) to win or send the game into overtime.  To many, this tournament seems, at times, to be all about luck.  Both good and bad.  I could not disagree more with this assessment.

“Luck is the residue of hard work and design.”  Many people attribute this quote to Branch Rickey, the innovative Hall of Fame Major League Baseball (MLB) executive who is best known for signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Others attribute it to various other famous (or relatively famous) people.  Honestly, I don’t care who actually coined the phrase.  I believe it is true.  There is no such thing as sheer luck.  Good things result from hard work.

Those Cinderella college teams worked hard.  Those teams practiced hard.  Those teams studied and prepared for their higher seeded opponents.  They didn’t just luck into a win.  In most instances, those shot-makers practiced at getting open, at getting to a position on the floor, at heaving long range shots from half court and beyond.  They didn’t just make a lucky shot.

Ever wonder how so many professional golfers make such great shots from seemingly impossible positions?  It’s because they actually practice those shots.  Do you remember “The Catch” made by Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone in the 1981 NFC Championship game?  That was not dumb luck. It was the residue of hard work and design.  You see, he and Joe Montana had practiced that play as a contingency for just that situation.

I myself have been accused of being “lucky” in my professional life.  I was lucky to have landed the senior position in my division when I was an enlisted submarine sailor.  I was lucky to be offered an engineering position at a prestigious command in Washington, DC.  I was lucky to get into the law school I attended.  I was lucky to team with a half-dozen other talented attorneys 14 years ago at a firm that now boasts over 50 attorneys on 2 continents.

To all of luck-believers I say, BULL****!  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, those four asterisks replace C-R-A-P.

Anyway, few people, beside my wife, understand the long hours of work and study I put in when stationed on my submarine.  Few are aware of the long hours of endless, year-round study during college and, 7 years later, law school.  Few are aware of the countless hours worked (both before the sun rises, and after it sets) to establish strong client relationships, which then gave birth to even more client relationships.  I mean, why would they?  Unlike some I know in other professions, I don’t post such things on Facebook.

I know.  It sounds braggadocio.  That’s not my intent.  My intent is this:  if a guy like me can experience so many blessings and successes in life, it can happen for just about anyone.  I have no special skills, no extraordinary intellect, no overwhelmingly charming personality.  But what I do have is a strong work ethic, a desire to excel, and an insatiable appetite to learn.  I believe – no, I know – that God has, and does, honor such traits.

The Bible repeatedly extols hard work.  “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23, NIV).  “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave” (Proverbs 12:24, NLT).  “A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense.” (Proverbs 12:11, NLT).  Luck.  Well, not so much.  Indeed, not at all.

Forget about luck.  It’s a fantasy.  Instead, choose hard work.  Persevere.  The residue of this choice may, to others, appear as luck.  But you (and I) will know better.

One thought on “I Believe in Residue

  1. Tim Casey

    Well written my friend and well stated. Love the Bible verses you provided to support your thesis. Hope you don’t mind if I steal a few. I’m proud to know you Paul. Many people would say “You’ve had a blessed life. And, I would say they are correct. Not because you got all the breaks. Not because you were lucky. Because you put in your faith in the Lord. You served your country. You studied; you worked hard. You invested your time and made sacrifices. Some people might call it Karma. I would call it the school of hard knocks. I used to tell my sons, “Nothing in life worth doing comes easy and there’s no substitute for years of hard work”. Many people have great business plans and dreams, but lack to fortitude to execute their ideas. Others become lazy, and give-up when life gets hard; refusing to take the blame for their shortcomings. Successful people are driven to succeed and strive for excellence in everything they do. Is this quality a learned behavior or were they LUCKY enough to be born with it. : ) Take care buddy. Go D’backs!

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