Luck Is the Residue of Design

by Claire Schmieder, Senior Editor, INALJ NYC, INALJ New York State, and INALJ Texas

Luck Is the Residue of Design

Claire.Schmieder.SeniorEditorBranch Rickey began his Major League Baseball career with the St. Louis Browns and the New York Highlanders in the early 1900s. He wasn’t a strong player and quickly left the MLB to attend college at the University of Michigan. Rickey studied administration and soon returned to the MLB—this time as a manager and, eventually, an executive for a number of teams, including the New York Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Rickey was innovative and committed to diversity. He created the modern minor league farm system and introduced the batting helmet. Most notably, he broke the MLB color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and Roberto Clemente to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955.

Branch Rickey was a successful person, but was he a lucky person? He would have argued that luck had nothing to do with his success. In an interview in a 1946 issue of The Sporting News, Rickey said, “Things worthwhile generally don’t just happen. Luck is a fact, but should not be a factor. Good luck is what is left over after intelligence and effort have combined at their best. Negligence or indifference are usually reviewed from an unlucky seat. The law of cause and effect and causality both work the same with inexorable exactitudes. Luck is the residue of design.”

I love this quote. Even though Rickey acknowledges the existence of luck, he argues that it’s directly connected to effort and drive.

Too often, I hear people acknowledge their success with “Oh, it was just luck.” Success does not come from luck; it comes from hard work over time.

You have to do the hard things—like trying and failing, being accountable for your actions, and paying close attention to detail.

You have to follow projects through to completion.

You have to produce something meaningful. And not just meaningful to you; it must be meaningful to others as well.

You have to take risks.

You have to learn from your mistakes.

You have to collaborate.

Your current and future success will come from commitment to hard work. Before you tell people that you were “just lucky,” reflect on all you’ve done to succeed. Sharing your story may empower others to find their own path to success and encourage them to strive for bigger and better things.