Tag Archives: luck

Time and Chance

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

It might seem strange to associate a scripture with an image of Vegas, but Ecclesiastes is all about the futility of human existence and few places is that futility more evident than on the Strip in Las Vegas. There was a time when I traveled to Vegas twice a year for trade shows. I was shocked by my first experience. Arriving in the airport that first night, with people everywhere looking as much like an ant colony as bipeds can look. This was the most normal thing I would see until I boarded the plane at the end of the week to return home. My first view of the strip was like a scene from a 1960s surrealist movie. Even an act as common as walking from the hotel to the convention center was unlike anything I’d experience in my life. Opulence, debauchery, depravity, arrogance, greed… it was piled up along every sidewalk, on every billboard, in every gutter and in the eyes of everyone you saw. Except for the natives. What you saw in the eyes of Las Vegasites was simply the fatigue of chronic misery.

I know people who love to go to Vegas and they will disagree with my perception. What I experience on my first trip was the unreal world of Comdex 1995. Your experiences might be different, but I was in the arrogant world of geeks at the geekiest show on earth in the one city I know that refers to itself as “Sin City”.

I was not attracted to the casinos. A quick look around would convince a thinking person that all those huge buildings where not built from people winning money in the casinos. The profiteers at these establishments understand what the writer of Ecclesiastes referred to as “time and chance”. Given enough chances and enough time, “luck” turns against you. What the casinos do is rely on a slim statistical advantage which benefits the house…and they rely on human nature.

A slot machine that pays out 98% of the time would be considered a very “loose slot”. For every $100 put into the machine, the house keeps $2. If a player plays long enough, he or she is guaranteed to lose all their money. In Nevada, it is legal to pay out as little as 75%. The average customer can walk into a casino, drop $20 in a machine, realize that it is not paying out much, move on to the next machine, drop $20, etc. Everyone wants to hit that big one.  Once you find that one machine which is sprinkling back a few winnings every 5 pulls or so, you may have lost several hundred dollars before you got there.

The best thing that can happen to a person is to lose all the money they intended to lose within the first hour they come to Las Vegas. You will not get the gambling bug that way because it is no fund to lose. The worst thing that can happen to a person is to hit a jackpot within their first hour. For the remainder of their visit, they will try to recapture that moment. They will lose everything they won, everything they set as their limit and everything they can get their hands on….all trying to recapture that moment of euphoria when they won the jackpot. That is the human nature side of things. Casinos do not fall prey to human nature. Gamblers do. Casinos do not gamble; they win. Eventually, the gambler will run out of money. They will not quit while they are winning because it is too much fun. They will not quit while they are losing because they are waiting for their luck to turn around. They will not quit when they become desperate because they just have to get their money back….after all, they were winning earlier. It is just a matter of time before they will be back on a winning streak. When they lose more than they can afford to lose, then they quit. The casinos have deeper pockets. There is no such thing as losing more than they can afford to lose. They can outlast anyone.

Of course, I am ignoring the fact that casinos can throw out anyone who is winning too much. Some people just have a phenomenal winning streak and the casinos have all sorts of tricks to break those streaks. They change dealers, offer more free booze, have a chatty person strike up a conversation and even employ “coolers” who are apparently born losers who ruin the luck of everyone they come in contacts with. In the end, if they can not stop a person from winning, they “ask” them to leave.

But in the end, it is just statistics; time and chance. The casinos stay open all night , 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They can open a table at any time to accommodate people who have money to wager. Chance is on their side. All they need to do is to run enough people through and the casinos are paid for, in full, in a few years. Very few years.

Time and chance also operates in the life of the job seeker. So often, I have heard people state that they were out of work, 6 months, one year, 18 months….with no viable prospects. Very few interviews. No offers. Suddenly, they hit. They get an offer. As they are preparing to accept the offer, a second one comes in. Occasionally, a third offer arrives while they are picking between the two. They are baffled. They do not know what they did differently.

I have a theory based on statistics and human nature. If  you toss a coin 100 times, it will come up (give or take a couple) heads half the time and tails the other half of the time. However, during the tossing, you will hit runs. It will come up heads 4 times in a row, tails twice, then heads 3 times in a row, etc. If you were betting on “heads” you would say that your luck was running good.  If it started to come up heads twice, tails, then heads, then tails twice, you would say that your luck was turning. Really, it is just chance. The longer you play (time) to more things are going to even out.

I have heard a statistic that it takes 50 face-to-face interviews to get an offer. Your odds are 50:1 that you will get the offer. Eventually, your “luck” will change. Just keep interviewing. In the end, it will not always be the swiftest, wisest, most discerning or the candidate of greatest ability….it will be you.

Good Luck and Godspeed.