(This originally ran in 2011 on The Project. Only 14 people read my stuff back then, so you probably missed it!)
You know what’s funny (well, I think it’s funny anyway), I refuse to play the Lotto. Any of the games: PowerBall, MegaMillions, etc. Until they get above $100 Million! Once they get above $100 Million, I’m all in. Here’s the funny part, I get it, I get how stupid the whole thing sounds. I know I’m more likely to get hit by lightening, while running with siccors, next to Kevin Bacon, I get the odds. I get that I’m actually making my chances of winning even less, by only playing when the numbers are higher. To me, That’s funny! Why in the world do I still do it, when I understand the odds I’m facing?
First, the Lotto is really the last great American Dream. It use to be get a great job, marry, buy house, etc. Not anymore. All we have left is the Lotto baby. So, if I’m really going to live the American Dream, I don’t want to “just” win $5, 10 or even 50 Million! I mean, can you imagine actually winning the Lotto and only winning $1 Million! You can’t retire and quit your job on $1 Million after taxes, you would still have to work. But not only that, you would probably have to work even harder because you would be all ghetto rich and go buy a house and other stuff you can’t afford. So, if I’m winning, I’m winning the Big One or nothing. It’s my dream, go get your own.
So, what does the Lottery have to do with HR? It’s the concept that a very small number are going to win, and most are going to be living the “real” American Dream of living check to check, average work environment, average leadership, just plain average. But! for a slight few, they win the job lottery. Even some in HR will win the job lottery. I use to think, there was no such thing as the job lottery. The people working for those “Great” companies, getting those “crazy” benefits, and “outstanding” quality of life, well they were just the tops in their field and the recruiting departments of those teams searched the entire universe to find the best. Right!? I mean don’t tell me it could be right place, right time! I stumbled into a 7/11 looking for a roller hot dog and Slurpee and the clerk talked me into spending $1 more dollar on a ticket and now I’m the richest guy in my trailer park…it couldn’t be that…could it?!?
I believe in every great company, they are great people employed, doing great things to keep their companies on top. I also believe, in the worst companies, you will find great people, doing great things, just trying to keep their companies afloat. In fact, those great ones, at the worst companies, might be even a little better than their counterparts at the best companies. I also believe that every company, even the great ones, have “pretenders”, people who live off the reputation of the company they work for, and try and pin their company’s reputation on their chest as their own. I know this because I run into many of the “pretenders” professionally, and within minutes of having a real conversation with them, it’s painfully obvious, they are not their companies. That’s how the Lottery works. It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t show favorites, it doesn’t force you play, it just does.
Don’t believe me? You are probably at a great company, and I must be wrong! Check out your demographics. I’ll bet 75%+ of your workforce comes from within 50 miles of your location. So, what you’re telling me, is you live in some “freak” community where 75%+ of the people just happen to be the top in their field! No you don’t, you just happen to have one very common trait with many of your co-workers, you all were in the right place, at the right time. You all won the job lottery! Don’t be defensive, there isn’t any need. I’m not going to be defensive when I win the $100M and someone says, “you’re only rich and powerful and where polka-dot shoes because you won the lottery!” For which I’ll say, “Yes, yes I did. No get back to work, ironing my underwear.”
Embrace you good fortune my HR brethren, I’ll even celebrate your good fortune with you, but please don’t act like your G*d’s gift to HR because you were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.