Never Tell Me The Odds

Ace high straight

More probable than successfully navigating an asteroid field.

While watching the new Star Wars trailer with my children this week, I was mesmerized by the entire production. I fondly remember the first time my parents took my brother and I to see any of the films (The Empire Strikes Back). After seeing it, my brother and I were hooked on the story, the images, and the action figures. Oh, and the Millennium Falcon, with the cool hidden panel in the floor. My brother had that one.

A few weeks ago, I was reviewing notes my father had left in his office regarding the book we were working on. There, I noticed an envelope taped to the inside door of his office closet. On it, he had written out a famous scene from the movie:

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.

Given his reliance on data and statistics to draw inferences, I was surprised to find this particular quote but shouldn’t have been: my father knew that many great men and women have been able to ignore odds in order to beat them. In a way, it reflects a confident disregard for what is probably going to happen and instead focuses on the hope for something better. Failure rates for new businesses; likelihood of becoming a leader within an organization; chances of success of first, second, and third marriages; the likelihood of becoming financially independent…if we paid too much attention to the odds without considering our own behaviors and choices, the result might be continued complacency.

On the same envelope, above the Star Wars quote, he had also written: “You are not x̄: opportunity.” In other words, we’re not an average: we can be successful…despite the odds and because of the choices we make. It was true for him for sure.

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