Like most people, I have been both lucky and unlucky in my life. Indeed, many who have been successful will admit to the large part that luck had played in that success. I’m not saying that hard work doesn’t also play a part; just that luck is random and can make such a difference. The secret, if there is one, is recognising that luck and making the best of it when it turns up.
In my own case, that luck first arrived in my adult life when I was in the army and posted from Germany to the Ministry of Defence in London. That enabled me to take a day release course at Brixton School of Building alongside other students who worked in architectural practice. Five years down the line, when I left the forces, with both a home and a job to find, one of those students helped me to get that job in Stevenage which came with a house included. An enormous stroke of luck which was the launch pad for my civilian life. Another came along when I left Hull School of Architecture and someone pointed out a job advert for the City Farms Advisory Service in London; something that I hadn’t noticed. I applied and got the job. Similarly, when I was going through a very bad phase of my life, a friend informed me of the fact that there was a vacancy for the post of Director of The Walter Segal Trust. This allowed me to rebuild that chequered career that I write about. On a more personal note, walking into The King’s Head in Islington where I met the person who has now been my wife for nearly 28 years; something that has enabled me to live a much more contented life than I had in the previous 47 years. Every one of these a happenstance.
Mind you, there are some that passed me by; notably, that it was someone else who took drawings of the scheme that I was working on to the printers one morning to get copies. When he got there, there were a couple of men in front of him. At which point, the printer pointed to him and said, “Ask Ray, he’ll do the drawings for you”. It turned out that they wanted some kitchen extensions drawn up. Ray was busy but gave them his brother’s number. The brother was interested and did the drawings and the many more that followed. The company grew and he became a Director and, I understand, quite wealthy. I stayed at his mews flat one evening with a friend who was looking after it at the time. It would not have been inexpensive. By a real irony, during that bad time that I mentioned, I worked, again, in architectural practice and one of the jobs that I worked on was for the company. It was for a major bank.
Now, I’m not saying that those who had that luck didn’t work hard once it came knocking on their door. They probably did. However, Lady Luck did have to come knocking in the first place. Crucially, however, you have to notice that luck among all the garbage that can be thrown at you in life and grab it with both hands. At which point that combination of luck, perseverance and hard work can change everything; provided you keep your eyes peeled and arms open.