This I Believe

Marcos - adliswil, Switzerland
Entered on January 30, 2008

I believe in luck. And I’m not just talking about black jack or craps (though I/m never lucky there). I believe in luck because after 12 years of software startups (some did well, most didn’t) and hearing countless stories retold in the press about internet billionaires, I realized that life is at least 50% about luck. Being in the right place at the right time. The internet produced amazing stories of wealth, from Microsoft secretaries who became millionaires to guys in garages who created the ‘next big thing’ and are worth billions. But living in the middle of it all you’d think, silicon valley was awash in billionaires, and the reality is, it isn’t.

There were plenty of folks like me who, while earning a very nice living and even getting an occasional bonus in the form of stock that was actually worth something, never bought a Porsche in cash, a multi-milliion dollar estate or had a private jet. In fact, the more I look around, the more I realized, 99.9% of the people I met were just average folks, perhaps with a slightly higher standard of living then your average American.

Luck has been an idea that I’ve carried around for years. I first stumbled on the thought when I’d seen the get-rich-quick schemes of the 80s and the cry by conservative republicans for the poor to “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”. As if being rich was something that they themselves earned, and luck and circumstance had nothing to do with it. Through sheer will and intelligence they “made” their wealth. It made me secretly think to myself. You know, that guy could have been born a jew in nazi occupied germany, or a poor African in Ethiopia, or an African American in the Jim crow south. Let’s see him pull that same feat under those circumstances.

I tried not to be bitter, the reality is, I’m a very lucky person myself. Sure, I grew up poor and under difficult circumstances. Being latino in a single parent family with four kids in inner-city Chicago can be tough. But, I’ve always had a roof over my head, warm clothes, food, access to a decent education and a loving mother who made sure I was safe. My mother made great, and hard choices to get me in the right direction. I was smart enough to take advantage of those opportunities and earn my Bachelors degree. I saw the internet train in the early 90s and new it would be interesting. I have a beautiful wife, and a child on the way, and a very good standard of living. What more can I ask?

Nothing, but I can always remember I’m lucky, and there are a lot of people in the world who aren’t as lucky. I can be humble and remember that there are people whose only concern is survival. I can try and help my larger community in whatever way possible, and never look at someone and think, they’re homeless because they didn’t work hard enough. That person could be me. Everyday I thank the Orishas of my religion for having given me the intelligence to know that sometimes I was just lucky, and be thankful for what I have. This, I believe.