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Friday, October 19, 2007

How to be lucky

This is a great article, and I think it really demystifies the connection between luck, success, and ability. I'll provide a few anecdotes:

  • When I first joined Google, I spoke to many people about the smartest thing they could have done right away when they joined: exercise their stock options. Many folks, despite my explanation of why it made sense, chose not to do so. They just couldn't grasp the idea that they could be financially sophisticated and be successful.
  • I will discuss my trips with some people. Many of them would tell me, "What a wonderful trip!" Yet the next time I invited them along on a trip, they would say, "No. Too busy."
  • I called a friend of mine several years ago hoping to recruit him for Google. His first words were, "Darn it! I should have called you once I decided to start interviewing. I've already accepted an offer at Amazon."
  • A few years ago, I started up a D&D game and met a bunch of folks at random to play. Three of them turned out to work at Google, and after a year or so of gaming with these folks, I ended up working there as well.

My social network of friends and people I know have been priceless to me over the last years. Opening yourself up to these opportunities and leaving your comfort zone is essential to both becoming lucky and successful. Even Scott Adams agrees, so it must be true.


Jim G said...

There's no vesting schedule for stock options at Google? At my current employer, I only get 25% of my options per year for four years.

Piaw Na said...

There's a vesting schedule of course. But as with most other employers that grant options there's a pre-exercise clause that you can take advantage of. That doesn't mean you'll get to keep the options if you leave, since the clause usually stipulates that the company can buy back the stock at the original strike price (netting you zero profit).

There is an unconfirmed story that one lucky employee pre-exercised all his stock options and then left the company. Due to an administrative error, the company forgot to buy back the stock before the buyout window expired, and he got to keep four years of stock after only working a year or two. I wouldn't count on that being the case, but it is yet another reason why pre-exercising at a pre-IPO company is so advantageous.