The Physics of Luck

The Physics of Luck

Luck is an event, positive or negative, brought about by chance rather than through one’s own effort. I have heard stories of how a lucky individual won millions in a lotto, or how an unlucky passerby got struck by stray bullet, of how a family picked a winning ticket in a visa lottery. I have heard so many stories.

In a football match in Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner after an intense battle with a rival team when he intercepted a low cross from one of his team mates to score a tap in that gave them the needed maximum points. It was so easy, so effortless but yet so crucial. Football fans reacted by saying that he only scores out of luck, that his goals have got nothing to do with brilliance, that he only cashes in on the efforts of his team mates; but in all these,  only a few bothered to ask,  why Cristiano Ronaldo?

With over 600 career goals and more than 100 outside the 18 yard box, it means he has scored more goals within the penalty area than outside. The region where goals are more likely to be by luck.

Is he just lucky or is his power of anticipation and positioning high?  I attempt to solve problems by asking a lot of questions and breaking the problem down.

Let me continue by breaking down the steps towards scoring an easy goal. First there has to be a cross from a team mate, Secondly Ronaldo has to anticipate and intercept. I can now separate this into two parts:

1.That which depends on him (Anticipation and positioning) D

2.That which depends not on him (The cross from his team mate) N

I can then at this point say that luck (L) is the product of that which depends on you and that which depends not on you, all happening at the same time. D•N=L

If this equation is true, as basic as it is, then the interesting part of it is that if D is (0) then Luck is also (0). Also, luck approaches zero (0) as D approaches (0). In other words, the smaller the effort which depends you, the smaller the luck.

My emphasis will now be on what to do to increase the factors dependent on you. I can list 3 itemS that attempt to do that:

  • Anticipation and Timing
  • Frequency or Repetition
  • Presence

In the first, a typical analogy that helps is what elite football strikers do following a cross or volley. They fix their gaze on the ball which is in midair, often ignoring the presence of defenders and the goal keeper. Which is why it is common to see strikers slamming their bodies against goal keepers while going for a header because they can’t afford to remove their gaze from the ball even for a second. In one match in the EPL, Liverpool scored a free-kick after the technical department gave them the hint that the players in the opponent wall always jump very high when free-kicks are taken. The taker slotted the ball under after the players in the opponent’s wall must have all jumped up. After the match the Manager gave the credit to the technical crew. That’s a typical example of increased anticipation.

Outside football there are ways to increase anticipation, one way is by having the relevant information on the field in question. Gather enough data. In other words, be informed.

For the second, a typical analogy that can help you understand it further is this. To score as many goals as possible, a footballer needs to be in the18 yard box as often as possible. The more he is there, the more his chances of scoring. That’s why centre forwards whose position is in the opponents penalty box always outscore defenders and midfielders. To do this they need to build their cardio respiratory endurance so as to have the energy to always run in as often as they can.

Outside football you can increase frequency by say sending out as many Resumes as you can, attending as many networking events as you can, always using a particular road until you meet that man or woman you want to meet who uses the same route.

As for the last, you need to be present for the said event to take place. For example, what are the chances of a stray bullet hitting a journalist if he or she is not present at the scene of a violent protest? If the scene is avoided, the incident is avoided.  What are the chances of someone getting involved in a plane crash if he doesn’t fly at all? And what are the chances of passing a test if you don’t show up at all?  I believe you know the answers.

In the end for any event to take place, all these factors must come together at the right (same) time. It is then also  important to note that events are unpredictable, that despite all calculated efforts ,events could go either way. Nevertheless, let the odds be on your side.

Share this post

Post Comment