Skip Navigation
Logo for Prosek

The 51% Rule and Return on Luck

Someone said to me recently, “If you run an organization and more than 50% goes right in a given day, you are having a great day.” I couldn’t agree more. I have a similar rule with spouses. If 80% of your relationship is good, then you are beating the system.   

The 51% rule is a great lens for anyone who has a “big job.” It brings a lot of joy when you can evaluate your day, mark your percentage, and hopefully congratulate yourself.   

For me, what brings the most satisfaction is not the average 51% day. It’s the day that should have been a disastrous low-percentage day but through sheer will, grit, and determination you turned it into a 51% plus day. I had one of those adventures last week, and the story is worth telling.


I knew my day was going to be tight. I had a big presentation that could go long, and I had to leave for the airport by 4PM to catch a flight. The presentation did in fact run long, and I tried to make the flight anyway.   

I got in the car and raced from Manhattan through the tunnel toward the airport in New Jersey.  On the way, I was doing the math and decided it was hopeless. I cancelled the flight and started to re-book the evening and the next day.   

Then I asked the driver to turn around and take me back to Manhattan, where I live, he said no. He had been up driving since 4 a.m. and didn’t want to face 90 minutes of traffic back through the tunnel. I agreed to be dropped in a safe place and get an Uber home. On the way to the drop off point, I spotted something in the distance. It was a commuter ferry. I asked the driver, “Where does that go?” He said 39th Street in Manhattan. The ferry was docking, so I asked him to speed me over.  

At the dock, the people in line told me I needed an e-ticket to board. They told me I wouldn’t be allowed on without it.   My driver told me to get back into the car. I told him I was going to try and negotiate. I guess my begging paid off because the conductor shooed me onto the boat. I was on my way!   

I had never taken a commuter ferry in Manhattan but it was a GLORIOUS TRIP. The views of NY were fantastic from the water, and it was 80 degrees outside.  I let the wind gust through my hair and thanked my lucky stars. I was back at the 39th Street dock in 15 minutes and home to welcome my daughter from her rough day at school. What was a potential 10% day turned into a day way over the 51% mark. There is nothing like a turnaround!

And THANK YOU, New York Waterway (!

The feeling of turning a low percentage day into a high one might be one of the best feelings an entrepreneur or leader has. The author Jim Collins has a theory called “luck moments.” He says most leaders have the same amount of good luck moments and bad luck moments. The difference between average leaders and great leaders is that the great ones know how to spot a good luck moment when it’s happening and max it out. They also know how to turn a bad luck moment into a good luck moment.  

My good luck moment isn’t going to change the course of my business or industry. But it does show the value of perseverance and pivoting when creating your own luck – something it never hurts to be reminded of.  

Follow Jen's Leading in Volatile Times Newsletter on LinkedIn.