J. Paul Getty appeared to be incredibly lucky, but it was a luck which, in many ways, he engineered. Instead of continuing on a well-structured career—-that of the U.S. Diplomatic Services—-he made a detour to the rich oil fields of Oklahoma.
There he had the difficult task of raising money, which he did by working and borrowing. He then took care of his funds, by spending them frugally. Initially, he hit a number of dry wells, but one speculation paid off for him. This last speculation was a calculated risk. Yes, he was lucky, but he also did his best to attract that luck.
A notable feature in his “luck” was his decisiveness. After reviewing the geological data, he decided to act on it. The data gave him odds on success, but it didn’t guarantee anything. He could have continued to investigate, postponing the decision to act.
But, in his own words, he did not want to be “like one of those government commissions that are afraid to make a decision. They hold hearings, collect facts, stew and fuss and keep very, very busy for months and months. After a while you know it’s just a sham. The appearance of action is just a front to hide inaction.”
When you take chances, you risk defeat, you risk loss, but unless you play the game you may never win either. Playing to win also means willing to lose. Indeed, J. Paul Getty lost first before he won. However, money management enabled him to continue despite his losses. And because he only had small losses, he was able to keep enough resources to stay in the game.
Successful investors on Wall Street advise new investors never to gamble with their grocery money, because it has a twofold effect: one, it jeopardizes their well-being; two, they are nervous when they invest and this clouds their judgement.
In your own life, you can use the following checklist to be a 'luckier' and more prosperous person.
1. Find some area that needs investment of time, money, energy, and skill.
2. Calculate the risks.
3. Estimate the rewards.
4. Find the time, raise the money, harness the energy, and learn the skills.
5. Manage your resources so that you only take affordable risks.
Above all, remember that winning often involves risking, but risking does not mean gambling. When you gamble, you don’t evaluate much information and you use all your resources. When you take risks, you review all the available information and only commit what you can afford to lose.
Dr. Abraham Weinberg, a prominent psychiatrist, once commented that passive people “tend to let life happen to them instead of using its opportunities in an asserive way. Often they are afraid of change itself, even change without risk. They tell themselves, ‘I’m afraid of going into this new situation,’ even when the situation holds no objective terrors except its newness. Instead of examining the situation and finding what the risks actually are, they simply drop out by saying, ‘No, it’s too much of a gamble.’ It may not be a gamble at all. They are only making an excuse for staying in some familiar territory.”