Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 18th 2014 Contents DECEMBER 2014 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
When I was a child, my
mother told me that
I would miss all the
shots that I didn t
take. Her words did-
n t make complete
sense at the time, but after almost 50 years
in business, I have come to truly understand
what she meant: you can t rely on luck but,
on the other hand, fortune favours the bold.
I believe that what people refer to as "luck"
is one of the most misunderstood and under-
appreciated factors in life. Businesses and
entrepreneurs that are generally considered to
be more fortunate or luckier than others are
usually those that are prepared to take chances
and experiment with new approaches; and to
fall flat on their faces every so often.
When I was watching the final round of the
British Open golf championship on TV some
time ago, one of the leaders chipped his ball
out of a deep bunker. His shot was too high,
but the ball clipped the top of the flagpole
and, amazingly, dropped right into the hole.
"Oh my goodness, what a lucky shot!"
exclaimed one of the TV commentators.
Another, a retired American champion, as I
recall, immediately snapped back: "Lucky?
What do you mean lucky? Do you know how
many thousands of hours we all spend prac-
ticing shots like that? He was trying to put
it in the hole and he succeeded. Let me tell
you, he worked long and hard on getting that
As I ve written in this column before, the
same sentiment was more eloquently expressed
once by Gary Player, one of the all-time golf
greats, who famously declared, "The harder
I practice, the luckier I get."
Like that golfer at the British Open, I have
also been accused of being merely lucky when
it comes to business. However, I, too, believe
that a lot of very hard work has played a major
part in any luck that has come my way. If you
try, try, and try again, eventually you may be
I must admit to sometimes struggling to
figure out where coincidence stops and good
luck begins, or how just happening to be in
the right place at the right time can so dra-
matically play into one s path through life.
One thing that s clear, however, is that entre-
preneurs who play it safe for fear of failure
are the ones who just never seem to get as
lucky as the risk-takers.
Is this just a coincidence? I don t think so.
Yet a vast majority of people seem to view
their chances of "getting lucky" in business
in much the same way that they view the like-
lihood of their being struck by lightning: They
think they have zero control. Well, that couldn t
be further from the truth - anyone who makes
an effort at whatever they hope to accomplish
can, and will, seriously improve their chances
When people bring up luck, I often mention
a coincidence that had a huge bearing on Vir-
gin s success. Back in the 70s, to our surprise
and delight, Virgin Records first album, Mike
Oldfield s "Tubular Bells," had become a huge
hit in the UK, but we were still trying to get
someone to distribute it in the U.S. I tried and
tried, but I just couldn t convince the legendary
head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, that
an all-instrumental album would sell in North
America. He just didn t get it.
One day, Ahmet just happened to be playing
the album in his office, and in walked movie
director William Friedkin, who was looking
for music for a movie he had in the works.
Friedkin heard "Tubular Bells," loved it, and
that was that: He had his backing track and
we had our US deal with Atlantic Records.
(The movie Friedkin was working on, of course,
was the box-office hit "The Exorcist.")
Call it luck if you want, but I d spent a lot
of time yammering away at Ahmet about this
music. If he hadn t been intrigued enough to
listen to the album one more time, Friedkin
wouldn t have heard it at that critical moment.
Remember: we can all make our own luck by
making it easier for luck to play a part in our
lives. Yes, luck is unreliable, but a gamble can
be worth the reward.
(This column was adapted from Richard
Branson's latest book, "The Virgin Way." For
more information, go to virgin.com/richard-bran-
(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin
Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic,
Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active.
He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-
branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter
at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to Richard-
Branson@nytimes.com. Please include your name,
country, e-mail address and the name of the
Web site or publication where you read the
Fortune favours the
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