After a failed attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher, the Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the attack. They announced in their statement: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”
This notion – “we have to be lucky once, you have to be lucky every single time” – has come up several times since the IRA originally stated it, both in terms of defending against terrorism and catching up with high profile terrorists like Osama Bin Laden.
While it’s applicability to terrorism certainly needs no more explaining, this notion of only needing to be lucky or right once may apply elsewhere…
Take your career.
Does it matter if you make a million mistakes if once, just once, you are very, very right?
Or what about your personal life?
Does it matter if you make a million mistakes with who you trust, befriend, or enter into a relationship with in your life if one time you are very right or very lucky?
Does being right once about something big enough, important enough justify a lot of mistakes in order to get there?
Consider Alan Greenspan. Greenspan claimed to be right 70% of the time about his tenure in government, (logic that, if it were applied to the captain of the Titanic, would sound disastrous and insane). What if those cards were turned though. What if he was right about far less often than he was but about every question that would have determined the course of the economy… that seems like it would obviously be better, but how often would he have had to have been right to get there and how many mistakes could he afford to make it order to do it?
What do you think? Does being right about the big stuff negate being wrong, a lot, about smaller things? And what are the big things that you really have to be right about? Or lucky? How many mistakes can you make in order to make that happen?
Also, do you do a good job focusing your time on being right when it matters, or are you stuck trying to avoid mistakes of all kinds? If so, why is that? If not, how do you keep yourself focused on what matters most?