P7 Р When Preparation Meets Opportunity

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." canstockphoto16326239

There is an axiom that suggests, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

I’m a big fan of axioms; those old sayings that generalize snippets of the human condition, those sage little postulates that provide a starting point or a premise upon which to build reasoning.

Axioms are often self-evident but sometimes the wisdom imparted is so simple and elegant that we humans tend to pass it by; such simplicity in this complicated world doesn’t seem worth examining.

Axioms are not science-based; there isn’t often a string of data that can be traced and strung together to prove the postulate. They are often valued for their common-sense approach to complicated subjects.

Like luck, for example.

It is true that there are many instances where pure luck was involved in some event. For example, I buy a lottery ticket, randomly choose some numbers--and win. (This is purely hypothetical--I did not win the lottery, or else I’d be writing this missive from a sunny beach cabana on a private south Pacific island with the pilot of my seaplane awaiting orders for my next destination.)

There was no preparation on my part; the numbers were random, the decision to stop and buy the ticket was unplanned--or was it?

Who is to say that all that I’d done in my life led me to pull into that Speedy Mart to buy the ticket? Could it be that the numbers I chose were subconsciously based on a sequence of significant numerical events in my life; my birthday, my wife’s birthday, the date I had my first kiss, the day I caught my first real fish, the day I got my first car?

Could fate, destiny, fortune, chance, providence or pure luck have been at play?

Perhaps sometimes luck is driven by need or necessity. Maybe the direction of our lives will, from time to time at important milestones in our progression through life, take a turn for the better because we sense the need.

I distinctly remember the day that I--or more accurately my car--turned into the parking lot of the Armed Services Recruiting Center.  I really don’t remember consciously doing it; I’d passed it on my way to and from a go-nowhere job for months, probably seeing it but not acknowledging it.

An hour later, I had signed up to be a United States Marine. That decision changed the course of my life, for the better I would say.

Pure luck could not account for that decision. Something in my past probably prepared me for that moment my hands turned the steering wheel towards a radically new direction in my life.

It was probably due largely to memories of my mother speaking so proudly of her brother who was a Marine in WWII; how she had his picture in dress blues always positioned prominently in front of all the other family portraits. She had other brothers in other services during WWII, but she spoke most reverently about, Her Brother, “The Marine.”

I also remember the angst my father displayed whenever the family got together and his brother-in-laws would start telling war stories.  My dad had been exempted from serving because he was an only-son.  I think that always left him feeling less adequate--like he’d skipped out.

I remember seeing that my two older brothers served, one in the Army, one in the Air Force. I felt it was something I should do, too.

So after a couple years of college and about the same at a job that was not lighting my fire, perhaps my life had been preparing me for that moment I almost passed the recruiting station one more time, but didn’t.

It was like buying that winning lottery ticket; it changed my life.  I became a Marine, I am a Marine forever and you can’t buy that, it is an earned title.

I only use this as an example from personal experience to try and exemplify the adage: luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

I use my own little code for another axiom I am sure you’ve heard; I call it “P 7 ”: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance. You can replace other expletives for “pathetically” but I’ve cleaned it up for publication in a family magazine.

I think everything we do, everything we learn, every job we work, every bad experience we endure and every good experience we enjoy is leading us in a direction. It may not be clear what direction; in fact it may seem like there is no direction; but each decision we make is leading us down a path that leads somewhere.

Hopefully, we choose the right path.

I remember reading a book by Richard Bach published in 1977 entitled “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.”

“Illusions” basically questions the view of reality and postulates that what we call reality is merely an illusion we create.

Heady stuff, to be sure; but what I remember most is the perspective Bach, a pilot, gives of reality from an aircraft high above. Looking down, reality consists of myriad paths intertwined on a great network of intersections and bypasses, underpasses and overpasses, dead ends and endless routes.

Each intersection represented a decision we make in our life, and the decision we make will take us down another road that leads to another intersection, where we make another decision … ad infinitum until death do us part.

Everything we do prior to an intersection prepares us for the decision at the next intersection … right, wrong or indifferent … and takes us in another direction.

After reading the book I couldn’t help but see life that way. Each time I had a decision to make, no matter how small or large, I’d do like Yogi Berra suggested: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I guess what I’m saying in this Weekender, as we move out of a work week, get to that weekend intersection and prepare for what’s coming next week--remember, P 7 . What you did this week--win, lose or draw--can be used to build the plan for next week, and the week after, and the week after.

If it’s the right decision, rejoice and go forth; if it’s the wrong one, own it, learn from it, correct it and go forth. Either way, go forth.

Randy Gaddo served for 15 years as a director in municipal parks and recreation after retiring from 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He developed, wrote, administered, and presented maintenance plans as well as recreation master plans during that time. Gaddo earned his Master’s in Public Administration, and now lives in Beaufort, S.C. He can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.