The right timing is a part of every success. Luck can play an essential part in the outcome of our strategy. At times, after all the correct data is collected, and market intelligence is understood, risks still exist. Businesses must place bets. I grew up in the South Pacific, the United States and Australia. Today, Australian casinos are busy with mostly Asian gamblers. In the United States, people gamble on lots of things, including sport and the stock market. When I was a teenager, Australia was very much a horse and dog racing culture. At the racetrack, a ‘bookie’ was the person who picks the odds of a horse or dog winning or placing and takes people’s bets. At school, some students placed bets amongst themselves on horse and greyhound races.

A family friend, Alex, who was a few years older than me, would take horse bets from other students on the ‘Melbourne Cup’, which is the largest annual horse race in Australia. Alex was bright and had come up with a good set of odds. Odds he hoped would give him a nice profit. When race day arrived, his father, Joe, who had recently discovered Alex’s illegal activity, demanded that he see all the bets. Upon examination, Joe realised that if all the horses ran to form, his son would do very well. However, if any two of the favourite horses stumbled or finished in the back of the field, the bets Alex would have to honour would leave him short!

Joe took Alex to the track to place some bets against the bets his son had collected and put down a hedge that covered any downside risks. It was a good strategy. If the favourites did well, Alex would do well. If the favourites raced poorly, Alex could also do well. Joe helped Alex balance his exposure. The race produced mixed results. In his first and last time as an illegal bookie, Alex did well. Odds exist in life and business as well. To ensure success, companies must invest in promising events with big payoffs and hopefully scale them. A business also must balance its bets by staying mindful of unlikely events that would have catastrophic consequences and develop hedge strategies as cover.

A few years later, Alex, in an odd turn of events, became a spiritual seeker and went to live in a Buddhist Monastery. I sense that Alex realised somewhere along the way; his soul could be at risk. He may have felt that the promise and probability of him making lots of money might not bring him true happiness. For Alex, a life unexamined spiritually might carry this downside risk. One he was not prepared to take. Perhaps he had learnt to play the odds and hedge his bets in a more balanced way.