Return on Luck

(reposted from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin's blog:, dated October 31, 2011)

If ever there were a time for the faith community to raise its voice about what we are doing to the environment, how we conduct business, and the mean-spirited incapacity of the government, now is the time.

In their new book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen, investigate how some of the most successful companies in the world got that way. They tested the belief that timing and luck were large players in success. Their conclusion: not luck but seizing the moment that luck provided was the key.

Everyone experiences both good luck and bad luck, they argue. The question is: do you squander it or ride it? get flattened by it or renewed by it? They call the bump after the luck: Return on Luck.

So, consider this:

  • The world-wide environment is in a most degraded state largely caused by human behavior.
  • The planet now hosts 7 billion human inhabitants, just 12 years after welcoming 6 billion, severely taxing our capacity to enable all of us to live well. (One billion people already live with food and water insecurity, meaning they often go hungry, under-nourished and with insufficient and tainted water.)
  • We are experiencing something new under the sun: never before have humans had the capacity to so alter the earth's systems imperiling all humankind.
  • We have precious little time to respond.
  • Some of the greatest environmentalists (Gus Speth, eg) and economists (Jeffrey Sachs, eg) see the problem as a spiritual failure or "a moral crisis". That is, they believe that the scientific, industrial, economic technical fixes that can be employed to turn the tide will only be taken if the human-spirit and public-will will endorse them, fight for them, demand them.
  • The most trusted institutions by far in the American landscape are the religious institutions. In a Pew 2010 poll, banks, congress, the federal government, large corporations, the news media, federal agencies, even the entertainment industry and the unions, were perceived as part of our nation's biggest problems. The faith community was seen in powerfully positive light, bested only by small businesses and technology companies.

Add to that the fact that hard news – news we would otherwise choose to dismiss, belittle or outright deny – is best received, sometimes only received, if heard from someone who is trusted.

If ever there were a time when the faith communities were in a position to speak up with a strong, moral, loving and fair voice, and guide America to the right path, now is the time.

If ever we were positioned to help American regain the civility and the environmental health that all personal, communal, economic, and national prosperity are based upon, now is the time.

And perhaps by embracing this signal challenge, the one by which our generation will be judged for all time – whether we chose to save the world's ecosystems while they are still recoverable or whether we chose to plunder them til we could plunder them no more – our stumbling congregations who are losing membership and worrying about their purpose and their own futures will be able to be rejuvenated, reclaimed and revived.

This might be a Return on Luck moment not only for the nation but our religious communities as well.

It is a moment we should not squander.

1 Reply to "Return on Luck"

  • Evonne Marzouk
    November 30, 2011 (10:46 pm)

    Here here, Nina! Well said!

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