45: All the Luck I Need

45: All the Luck I Need

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

All the Luck I Need

Luck has a peculiar habit of favoring those who don’t depend on it.

~Author Unknown

It’s not a story I’ve told before, not even to many members of my family, but I think about it every anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. It’s a story about good timing and plain dumb luck, and how a single seemingly irrational decision can change your life.

A number of years ago my day job was with a software company. It was a great little company. Nice people, fun work. Everyone worked hard to get us on the map. The technical people were very bright. Not being that bright myself, I looked after sales.

We went to all the trade shows and managed to have more fun than most other people there. And none of it involved booze, flirting or staying out past ten o’clock. We just loved what we were doing.

Then one day a new customer appeared—at the time one of the biggest software companies in the world. They liked what we were doing so much they wanted to buy the company, even though it wasn’t for sale. Eventually they made an offer that no one could refuse (this was before the dot-com technology bubble broke, and people were paying stupid amounts of money for software companies), and in the beginning of 2001 they arranged to buy the company.

As luck would have it, since we were such a small company, there were only two of us in sales — the president and me. The president decided early on that he would be leaving his newly sold company with a sack of cash in pursuit of fresh challenges. That left me.

The new owners decided they needed someone to run the new operation, and offered the job to me. To go with the job, they were going to make me their newest vice president. The position came with a bigger salary than I may ever see again, stock options and the works.

The new owners all talked about their private airplanes and personal helicopters, or the multimillion-dollar homes they were building for their very early retirement. There were weeklong seminars in Tuscany and Paris, and bonuses that were bigger than what most people paid for their houses. They even announced before I had said yes that I was their new vice president.

I hemmed and hawed for a while. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay on without my friend, but it isn’t every day you walk away from a job as vice president of the fourth largest software company in the world.

Still, that’s what I did.

It sounds stupid now, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. I vaguely thought the job wouldn’t be much fun, and the people I would have been working for seemed a little too sharp for their own good. Eventually I’d likely have to move to California, which is nice but isn’t home.

My friend the former president said I was welcome to join him in his new venture. So with a leap of faith, I said so long to the giant golden carrot dangling before me and instead went with my friend to pursue an uncertain future.

About six months later I watched the unimaginable as the World Trade Center crumbled to dust with so many people inside.

When the dead were finally given names, I realized that one of them was the new senior person in the office where I had worked. He had been offered my job after I left. He had been on a company seminar in the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, and managed a brief cell phone call to a loved one before he died.

Would that have been me? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not something I really want to think about too much, especially since he had taken the job that I turned down.

As for me, on 9/11 I know exactly where I was. After watching that horrible morning unfold on TV, my wife and I kept a noon appointment for an ultrasound, where I saw my unborn first son curled up and oblivious to the terrible things that were going on in the outside world.

I’m not a big believer in fate or miracles, but I have never underestimated the power of luck. And if that’s the last bit of good luck I ever have in my life, you won’t hear me complain.

~Stephen Lautens

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