Risk, Luck, and Surface Area

This post is about the things you can control, and the things you cannot.

Let’s start with a simple question.

I lied. It’s not simple.

Here’s the question:

What role has luck played in your life?

I’ll make it a bit easier to answer.

It’s a multiple choice question:

A. None.

B. A little.

C. A lot.

If this is too big a question to answer and you’re not interested in playing mental games and you want to just read something, I’m sorry.

I am going to persist.

Zoom in on one aspect of your life.

Your job.

Your relationship.

Where you live.

What role has luck played in that aspect of your life?

Ok, enough about luck.

Let’s explore risk.

I forget the source, but I once read that risk is what’s left once you’ve thought of everything.

By that definition, risk is something you just don’t see coming.

Time for another question.

It’s really a complement to the question of luck.

Here it is:

What impact can risk have on your life?

I know, I’m being a bit mean now. I’ve just asked you a question based on a concept of something you can’t see coming. So, how the heck are you supposed to answer the question.

Well, this is perhaps a long-winded way of getting to what is ultimately a simple truth.

Luck and risk are both completely out of your control, and each can have an outsized impact on your life.

So, if these two huge things are completely out of your control, then what are you left to control?

One thing.

Surface area.

Let's explore what I mean.

And, let's get practical.

Take a look at this and imagine it's your life.

Blank dotted page

Pretty boring.

Let's make it interesting.

Blank dotted page with single square

Perhaps we can think of the square as a decision you made, or an action you took.

Blank dotted page with three squares

You're making decisions and taking actions all the time, are you not?

Blank dotted page with several squares

It's obvious by now what's changing in these images.

Surface area.

This is fully within your control.

I'll end with another simple truth:

While both luck and risk are completely out of your control, your decisions and actions can increase your chances of getting lucky and facing risk.

yellow background with blue dots making a grid shape