Can you be an engineer and also believe in luck? Does luck play a role in your life, or is everything a statistical probability? Can you believe in a higher power and still be a scientist? Have you ever had a drilling operation hit a pay zone that you didn’t know existed or had a well take a kick when it encountered unexpectedly high pressure? Does luck play any role in these situations?

Assessing project risk is very important to most companies. Each company responds differently to that assessed risk, however. Whether it’s through computer simulation or simply wisdom and personal experience, most companies run through multiple scenarios on every project in an attempt to assess risk. Understanding this risk helps determine the probability of success or failure. Once this risk has been identified and quantified, should companies then calculate a luck factor?

If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you’ve probably been involved in the following two situations. One—you were completely certain that a project would succeed, but it did not. Because statistical analysis showed a minute possibility of failure, you were surprised by the reality of actual failure. Two—you were completely certain that a project would succeed, and it did. Statistical analysis would state that you should not be elated with the success, because it was a statistical sure thing. We know, however, that there is always a possibility that things may or may not go the way we expect and hence feel sheer delight at victory anyway. Some may attribute this phenomenon of variability in life to luck, a higher power, or simply statistics. No matter which is chosen to explain the situation, I find it refreshing that there are still things in life that are surprising.

On March 30–31, the SPE Gulf Coast Section will host the Emerging Engineers Conference to equip young engineers with the tools necessary to build their careers.(See p. 19.) An important facet of career management is to understand and be prepared for unknowns. All of us need to prepare ourselves to respond to the unexpected. Success planning includes succession planning. What will you do if the unexpected hits you? Good luck or bad luck, will you be prepared?

As engineers, we make decisions based on the theory of cause and effect. Is luck a cause or an effect? Is it an excuse or evidence? Is belief in a higher power a justification of events, or a given fact of life? I think we should all expect the unexpected, shrug off bad luck and embrace the occasional bout of good luck.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may luck be on your side!