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Tony Elumelu- Does Luck Play a role in success?

Does Luck Play a role in success?

Before I answer this question, I would like you to read something from Tony Elumelu, a guru in business.

In business the role luck plays in success and personal achievement is rarely discussed. If luck is mentioned, it is done with slight condescension, and usually dismissed as a product of hard work, not deserving significant attention. While hard work is paramount- and I have written extensively about the importance of working hard – History and my own experiences show that there is often a large element of success that hard work alone can not explain. It is simply not true that “You make your own luck”.

I started my career as a sales representative, a copier sales representative to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision- but also luck.

A year later after earning a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos, I applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank. The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1-degree, but I applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out application with my 2:2- Economics degree.

By a stroke of luck, my application was reviewed by the Chairman/CEO, a painstaking man who carefully read my cover letter and was drawn to the confidence in my words. “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more”. He read those words and tool a chance on me. Though “unqualified”, he decided to throw me a lifeline, an opportunity.

I was invited to join the shortlist, followed by a long series of interviews and even more tests. At the end of a very rigorous process, I received good news- I had a pace as an entry level analyst. Even now, I wonder: What if the Founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?

The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager- the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. I was hard working, energetic, creative and prioritized getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice and then, believed in me. They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognized in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.

This position of branch manager was a solid platform which launched me into several top leadership roles. When we, a small group of hungry, determined, young outsiders, took over struggling Crystal Bank, it was a direct result of the preparedness and exposure that we received early from our superiors and mentors. Without the intervention and goodwill of these people in my career, I would not have been prepared to take on far greater roles. These learning opportunities laid the pathway to future achievements. To put simply, I was lucky enough to be identified and trusted so early on in my career, and this put me on a unique road to success. I keep this in mind- It is humbling and also drives much of what I do today.

When I left UBA as Chief Executive officer (CEO) in 2010 to pursue other interests, I made a vow that through the Tony Elumelu Foundation. I would “Institutionalise” luck and democratize access to opportunities for young Africans. I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed. Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people.

After reading this, I am compelled to say either you call it luck or the God factor (which I personally love to call it) or chance i feel it is necessary in the success story of life. Do you think it is necessary to succeed? I have seen far too intelligent people and their works, gone unnoticed and I have seen people given opportunities that have propelled them to the top. What is your take on this? Let us discuss

An extract from THE TONY ELUMELU FOUNDATION: 5 YEARS OF SPREADING LUCK- EVERYONE NEEDS A LITTLE HELP

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